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Analysis

Specialized Drilling Fluids to Optimize Performance

Mon, 10/21/2013 - 22:39

Financially speaking, exploration is inherently one of the riskiest stages within the mining value chain. Mining operators set very high standards for their drilling activities, since the information recovered from each drilled meter will determine whether a mining company needs to raise funds to continue its activities. In the Mexican drilling market, companies supply different drilling rigs with varying and unique advantages but the reality is that the effectiveness of the drilling does not depend entirely on the machinery, but also on the drilling fluids used to enhance operational performance.

The soil composition in Mexico is varied, and the geological diversity forces drilling companies to face a great number of challenges when looking for mineral deposits. “The Mexican lithology is very rich. You can find all types of clays, gravels, sands, and silts, for this reason companies providing drilling fluids need to have a very consistent inventory, in order to help drilling companies face these challenges,” says José Talamantes Reyes, Director General of Fluídos Mayan Star. According to Talamantes Reyes drilling companies have to pay a lot of attention to the geological conditions found where they operate and to the drilling products they use in order to avoid any kind of entrapments or cave-ins. “If drilling companies try to drill deep and fast, it is vital to make sure that they are using the right fluids to guarantee the drill hole walls are clean and stable, otherwise the holes are likely to collapse and they will have to be drilled again.”

Effective drilling fluids provide the advantage of having open holes clean and lubricated in order to help the drillers achieve better core or sample recovery. Many drilling companies are used to only using one additive, which is generally the combination of water and bentonite, used to create solid walls during the drilling process. “Most of the time we go to a project where the core recovery rate is between 50 and 60% and we run some tests to try to increase it to 80 and 90% by adding drilling fluids. Mining companies need to have recovery at every meter so they can know exactly what is underground,” stresses Victor Elizarrarás, Operations Manager of JC Portal Drilling Supplies.

Every day mining companies require faster drilling and better recovery rates, and for this reason drilling companies  are looking for new types of additives like the ones provided by Fluídos Mayan Star and JC Portal Drilling Supplies in order to quickly advance exploration. The application of drilling fluids can be complicated and even challenges the most experienced drillers. “It is very common that drillers do not take advantage of the capacities of their drilling fluids, if the behavior of polymer is irregular it can considerably increase costs, and if the product is not mixed and applied properly the driller will end up using an unnecessary amount, but if they know how to use it adequately they will be able to save up to 50% of the costs in their applications, and at the same time be able to drill a lot faster,” says Elizarrarás. One of the main challenges during exploration is the lack of knowledge some drillers might have regarding the use of complementary products for drilling rigs such as perforation fluids. According to Talamantes Reyes a great deal of the responsibility lies with the drilling fluid providers, because of their immediate sales strategy. “We have detected a lack of quality in technical field services and a general ignorance regarding drilling fluids. It is our responsibility as providers to make sure that the clients know all about the product if we want them to succeed,” he remarks.

As technology develops, it becomes more and more difficult to keep up with modern exploration techniques. Drillers need constant training programs to benefit from the products they are using. Product application will vary depending on the soil and weather condition where drilling is taking place, therefore continuous assessment is essential to achieve the best possible results. “In order to help customers drill faster and achieve a high recovery rate under any geological condition, drilling fluid companies need to show them how to create a special recipe that adapts to those conditions,” Elizarrarás explains. For example, if companies have to drill clays they will need to apply a polymer that is specifically designed to drill this type of soil. If the drilling will take place in solid rock, additive or lubricant will be needed to reduce the torque and avoid causing damage to the drill bits. Exploration is a challenging and complex science; companies rely more than ever on fluid technologies to enhance their efficiency and to gain a competitive advantage over their peers.