- Jim McCombs
Over the last decade, the demand for sonic drilling has increased—and drilling companies across the country have stepped up to provide it. Now, when you need a sonic drilling contractor, there may be more than one option, but it isn’t always clear which one has the experience and resources your project requires. In today’s blog post, we’ll cover the questions you should ask when selecting a sonic drilling contractor.
It’s relatively easy to buy a sonic rig, but it is much harder to find experienced sonic drillers, much less an experienced crew. Many drilling companies have purchased sonic rigs and handed them over to their existing staff, expecting that the learning curve will be short and sweet.
That isn’t typically the case. Drilling is a tough job no matter which technology is used, but sonic drilling requires a unique level of knowledge and experience. The technology is more complex, and in order to drill effectively and efficiently, the driller must understand how it interacts with various types of lithology, and what to do if things don’t go according to plan.
On some projects, like earthen dams, the stakes are especially high, and an inexperienced sonic driller could be the death knell for your project’s success.
The number of sonic rigs isn’t just a matter of show—it also can impact your project deadline. If a drilling contractor only has one or two sonic rigs in their fleet, it only takes a breakdown or another project going long before your project sees delays. You want to work with a company that has a sonic fleet, so you never have to worry if the rig will show up as scheduled.
This goes both ways, of course. If your project experiences a disruption that delays drilling, a contractor with a larger sonic fleet most likely can accommodate you since it won’t necessarily cause a ripple effect of delays for their other clients.
Depending on access, projects goals, or obstacles on your drilling site, you may need a non-traditional sonic rig. Ask your contractor if they have mini-sonic rigs, track-mounted sonic rigs, or large ATV sonic rigs.. This will help you determine whether or not the contractor is even able to access your site.
Additionally, some sonic rigs are better suited than others for changing subsurface conditions. For the technology to work as designed, resonance of the drill pipe must be achieved and maintained as it advances—and not every rig can do this in changing geology. If your site has heterogenous lithology, you must ensure your contractor has the appropriate equipment available.
If you have a unique project, there may not be existing equipment or tooling that can accomplish what you need. That’s why it’s important to work with a drilling contractor that can adapt or develop in-house.
For example, on a recent project a client required 16” borings—but there was no tooling that could provide a borehole of that diameter. Luckily, the contractor was able to fabricate what was needed and give the client exactly what they requested.
Although it would be great if breakdowns didn’t occur, the reality is that equipment breaks when it’s being used, not when it’s sitting in a shop. If that happens on your project, you want to know the contractor has a plan in place for dealing with it swiftly.
That plan may include swapping the rig out for another one in their fleet. It might be bringing in their mechanics for an on-site repair. It definitely should include a communication plan with you. But no matter what the plan is, your sonic drilling contractor should have one and be able to explain it when you ask.
While there’s no shortage of drilling contractors offering sonic these days, make sure you choose one with extensive experience, resources, and pre-project planning. If you think Cascade might fit the bill and you’d like to learn more about working with us, send me an email or request a quote.