Managing drilling fluids on HDD projects

Drilling fluid is essential to the success of a horizontal directional drill (HDD) installation. However, with the rising costs of managing waste, limited availability of disposal sites and strict environmental regulations, contractors are turning to other methods of drilling fluid management to reduce costs. One method that has grown in popularity is the use of a reclaimer.

Drilling fluid plays two key roles in an HDD installation: it extracts particles and cuttings from the bore hole, and it stabilises the bore hole.

Jeff Lawson, National Construction Equipment Sales Manager at Vermeer, said contractors need to be aware of drilling fluid management as it can affect an entire project, from the tender application to the final cost of a project.

“There are a lot of hidden costs and challenges associated with the disposal of drilling fluid, but having the right equipment can play a large role in mitigating these.”

Reclaimers have become more prominent on HDD sites, as they provide an effective solution to drilling fluid management. Reclaimers mix the fluid with the required additives and a high pressure mud pump sends it to the drill. Drill cuttings and the used fluid is then drawn back into the reclaimer where the cuttings and drilling fluid are separated by a shaking deck. The fluid is further cleaned, with descender and desilter cones removing any remaining cuttings. The recycled fluid is then returned to the tank where it can be reused.

“It no longer makes economic sense to dump water and the drilling fluid after only one use, especially with the large volume required on many job sites and tight regulations around its disposal. Using a reclaimer not only increases productivity but also gives contractors a competitive edge as costs are reduced,” Mr Lawson said.

Is a reclaimer right for you?

While reclaimers have a number of benefits, they are a significant investment so it is important that you determine if purchasing one is the right move for you.

“There are a number of factors that contractors can look at to determine if they will benefit from purchasing a reclaimer,” Mr Lawson said.

“Reclaimers can be of great benefit for contractors working in areas where dumping fees are high, there is a long distance between job sites and the dumpsite, strict environmental regulations are in place, or water is scare. In such situations, a reclaimer can increase productivity and reduce the amount of fluid needed for a job.”

Click here to read the full article in the September edition of The Australian Pipeliner.