Well-Maintained Fluid Handling Systems are Vital to a Successful Directional Drilling Job

Here are some tips for handling fluid system maintenance — mixers to reclaimers — so you can maximize your drilling efficiency

Well-Maintained Fluid Handling Systems are Vital to a Successful Directional Drilling Job

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In directional drilling, much of the focus is put on the drill itself, but if you want to eliminate downtime on job sites, fluid handling systems cannot be ignored.

Here are some tips compiled from previous Dig Different articles about the two main pieces of equipment in this category: fluid mixers and reclaimers.

1. Don’t forget the basics

As with most heavy equipment, one of the major components of fluid handling systems is a gas or diesel engine, so regular engine maintenance is important.

Operators should check engine oil and oil filter daily, along with any manufacturer-specified maintenance intervals.

Another common component is the pump. All this machinery incorporates pumps — on the mixers, usually a centrifugal pump, which comes with its own specific challenges. Centrifugal pumps have impellers that move the fluid, and as those impellers wear, you could lose head pressure at your hydrocyclones. When you lose head pressure, the hydrocyclones lose their cleaning capacity. Monitoring that head pressure and performing the necessary maintenance is key.

Most of the systems are trailer-mounted or self-contained, road-worthy units. Make sure DOT requirements are met, with lighting and signage — air brakes, air suspension systems, etc. Learn your area’s DOT requirements, and follow manufacturer recommendations for trailer units.

2. Cleaner is better

Mixers and reclaimers have tanks and hoppers with a variety of material cycling through them. Keeping them clean between jobs prevents cross-contamination in your fluid, and perhaps more importantly, prevents rust and other factors that can limit the life of your equipment.

There’s also a possibility of algae growing in the tanks if water is left to stagnate. For the mixers specifically, moisture buildup in the dry hopper can cause serious clogging, resulting in downtime on the job.

3. Cold weather kills

Cold weather isn’t only a concern in Canada and the northern U.S. It can even cause problems in the South. Any place where it’s possible for freezing conditions to arise.

The easiest way to prevent freezing is simply to keep your tanks empty whenever possible. When it’s not possible, circulate the pumps as much as necessary.

After that, it comes down to cold weather storage, where the tanks should be drained, and all valves — fluid system valves and drain valve on the pump — left open.

4. Do it for the drills

Fluid handling systems increase drilling efficiency, but if you’re not careful, they have the potential to cause problems with the drills themselves. Mixing systems allow for the perfect concoction of drilling fluid — but the variability of the machine also requires diligence.

In today’s high-tech environment, the possibilities for different fluid additives and products are endless. Making sure you have the right mix is important not only for the efficiency of a specific job, but also for making sure your drill lasts as long as it can.

Ditch Witch has a free Fluid Formulator tool on its website (apps2.ditchwitch.com/fluidformulator) that will tell you the exact fluid specifications for your job based on the parameters. 

For the reclaiming end of the drilling process, not keeping a close eye on things can also have detrimental effects on the drilling system. Possibly the most important part of a reclaimer is the shaker deck, where a number of screens ensure that spoils aren’t reintroduced into the drill.

With reclaimers, it’s about screen maintenance: Keep screens washed, observing the condition of the screens, and if there are holes in them, then those screens need to be replaced. Otherwise contaminates are going right back into the tanks.

Screens should be checked continually. It depends on the material you’re going through, but it’s not uncommon to go through multiple screens in a single job.

Because they are under vibration and because there are abrasive materials like sand moving across them, they do wear out. 



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