Water Well Journal Q&A


International sales director talks drill bits and success on the drilling site.

By Thad Plumley

There is no doubt when the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic exploded last year it put a crunch on everyone working in the groundwater industry.

Keith Jackson

However, according to Keith Jackson, the international sales director at Infinity Tool Mfg., signs are pointing to this year looking better.

“Our customers seem to be as busy as ever and are reporting the initial
signs for 2021 look very good,” he said recently to Water Well Journal.

Infinity Tool is headquartered in Benton, Illinois, while Jackson lives in Halifax, West Yorkshire, England, in the Pennines, a picturesque range of hills and mountains running up the spine of the country.

The company manufactures a line of PDC bits, downhole bits, horizontal directional drilling consumables, and drilling accessories. Its products are suited for the water well, geothermal, oil and gas, mining, construction, horizontal directional drilling, and geotechnical markets.

Infinity Tool’s staff boasts more than 100 years of combined experience in the drilling industry. Jackson has personally worked in the rock drilling industry since he was 18 and joined Infinity Tool in early 2019 to continue the company’s international growth.

With a business-to-business marketing background, including running his own marketing and commercial photography company for 15 years, he is responsible for the Infinity Tool’s marketing around the globe.

Infinity Tool Mfg.’s bits and drilling products are made at its facility in Benton, Illinois.

The February 2021 issue of WWJ focuses on drilling bits, tips, and techniques, so we thought it was the perfect time to catch up with Jackson.

Water Well Journal: How were business sales in the water well and geothermal markets in 2020 here in the United States?
Keith Jackson: The year 2020 was a challenging year for all in the drilling industry. During the first wave of the pandemic, we had to close our manufacturing facility due to state guidance (in Illinois). But from May 2020 onwards, we saw a recovery in the market as drilling contractors started to operate again throughout North America. We have also set up a number of new customers internationally, including distributors in Europe, the Middle East, and Australia.

WWJ: How does bit weight affect success on water well drilling jobs?
Jackson: Bit weight isn’t the main factor for a successful drilling job; choosing the correct bit type and design for the ground conditions is the most important consideration. There are many different rock tool technologies available for water well drilling including cable tool, tricones, DTH hammers, and PDC bits. Each technology is suited to different ground conditions.

For instance, tricones are versatile bits with an option for nearly every type of rock, especially above 25,000 psi compressive strength. As well as being low in initial investment, they also have excellent impact resistance, which makes them suitable when the rock is fractured.

PDC bits are excellent for drilling in soft shale/hard clay conditions up to solid rock at 25,000 psi. In these ground conditions, they offer higher speed, longer life, and increased steerability. They also put less stress on the drill rig due to lower torque required and less vibration on the drill rods, producing clean holes with a consistent size.

We have a number of resources to help our customers choose the correct bit online.

WWJ: What are some other factors that contractors tend to overlook on their bit that hamper success on a drilling job?
Jackson: Operating specifications are very different for the various type of drill bits. For example, the maximum weight on bit (WOB) for a PDC bit is significantly less than a tricone, whereas the minimum rpm is higher for a PDC bit. I encourage any contractor to get in touch with Infinity if they require advice for specific ground conditions.

WWJ: How can water well contractors know when to send their bit in to be retipped?
Jackson: The main factor in determining this is either a visual inspection of the bit or a reduction in penetration rates. If contractors are unsure whether a bit needs repairing, they can send a few images of the bit to Infinity and we’ll let them know if the bit is repairable with an estimation for completing the work.

WWJ: What is the most common bit you repair in the water well and geothermal markets?
Jackson: PDC reamers are one of the most cost-effective rock tools to repair instead of replace. This can either be replacing some of the cutters to a complete refurbishment including new blades.

WWJ: Can you describe the machinery you use on the shop floor to repair bits?
Jackson: Unfortunately, this is commercially sensitive information to share, but rest assured we have specialist equipment to look after our customers’ products and ensure they are maintained to the highest level for maximum drilling efficiency.

WWJ: Which drill bit designs are you most excited about in 2021?
Jackson: We have a new product being launched called the Rock Buster Extreme. Please keep up to date with Infinity’s social media channels for more information.

WWJ: What adaptations have you made during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic that will remain in the future in your company?
Jackson: We have made a number of permanent changes including more customer resources online, technology for staff working remotely, and increased health and hygiene in the manufacturing facility.

Some of the changes in the facility include a provision of gloves, hand sanitizer, and wipes; social distancing where possible; an enhanced area cleaning regime; and an alteration of the layout to the break rooms.

WWJ: Lastly, what are the greatest challenges facing drill bit manufacturers today?
Jackson: COVID-19 has obviously been a big challenge for the industry as a whole. This includes difficulties with being able to meet face to face with customers and suppliers to lack of trade shows and exhibitions.

Rising costs are another great challenge for manufacturers at the moment. This includes raw material increases and other indirect costs such as insurance and labor costs.

Thad Plumley is the editor of WWJ and director of information products at the National Ground Water Association. He can be reached at tplumley@ngwa.org, or (800) 551-7379, ext. 1594.