Water Well Journal Q&A

The president of Frey Well Drilling Inc. in Alden, New York, discusses the benefits of dual rotary drilling.

By Mike Price

Bill Frey, MGWC, has enjoyed the versatility of the dual rotary drilling method since the early 2000s. Photo courtesy Frey Well Drilling Inc. in Alden, New York.

With decades of invaluable drilling experience, Bill Frey, MGWC, enjoys sharing his knowledge with the next generations. It couldn’t be more important with the industry in need of growing its workforce.

“Everyone has a different learning curve,” says the 71-year-old president of Frey Well Drilling Inc. in Alden, New York. “Leave the new driller alone early on and don’t scold failures. Mistakes make the best drillers.”

Frey, a second-generation water well contractor who became a Master Groundwater Contractor (MGWC) in 2010 along with his brother, Mike, began drilling in his teens. His father, Harold, started the company in 1955 and it is a family-owned and operated residential and commercial drilling company that specializes in water well, gas, geothermal, rock, drainage, and utility drilling. Frey’s son, Brian Frey, CWD, and nephew, Keith Frey, are third-generation contractors.

In the early 2000s, Frey took delivery of his first Foremost Industries LP’s dual rotary (DR) drilling rig. Frey quickly took to the DR drilling method and the company recently took delivery of its seventh DR-12 drilling rig from Foremost. Frey has helped contribute to the design and testing of Foremost rigs over the years.

“You’ve got to know your area, and the Foremost allows us to do that and kind of hole saw down into the earth and figure out what’s really there in real time,” says Brian Frey, CWD, who has been to Ireland, Idaho, Pennsylvania, and throughout New York to help drillers with their DR rig.

“We do a lot of test hole drilling for municipalities under engineers’ guidance for samples every foot and send those samples out for screen analysis where samples from a sonic rig might be accurate but not as accurate as the Foremost. We lay out the samples every foot on the ground and you can see the colors and see the gravel and interfaces or changes. It’s allowed our engineers and hydrogeologists to make better
decisions by sampling in real time.”

With DR continuing to grow in use in the water well industry, Water Well Journal caught up with Bill Frey, MGWC, to discuss it as well as pressing issues in the industry.

Frey welds a 6-inch casing joint for a 580-foot well that had 240 feet of overburden and cavernous limestone.

Water Well Journal: Why do you think dual rotary is the preferred drilling method and what is your favorite aspect of it?
Bill Frey, MGWC: Dual rotary is the preferred method for drilling in many applications; smaller hole [inside casing, not outside], less fuel, less bit cost, and less overall wear and tear. Simply, rigs last longer with a great re-sale value.

The cuttings are from just ahead of the casing only, making the picture of the wellbore easily interpreted. No worries. You can stop anytime and go home because you are not open hole drilling, hoping to reach rock and set casing before the hole collapses. The driller can drill ahead with the option to add more casing at any time.

The cuttings are away from the rig and operator. No more big yellow boots for me. No dirty mud drilling. The casing goes through boulders of any thickness and even through rock past those terrible mud-producing caverns. My clothes and gloves are always warm in the rig cab and there is a warmed-up cab for the ride to the next job, which is so predictable because every job is easy.

The manufacturers of DRs are listening to the drillers and will continue to improve their products according to the driller’s desires. No more Henry Ford theory “any color as long as it’s black.” My rigs are royal blue with our own driller adaptations, which also makes our rigs’ re-sale value higher and desirable.

WWJ: The water well industry is seeing an increase in drillers switching to this method. Why do you think that is?
Frey: Drillers, like all people, want their job to have fewer worries and less logistics and be more fun.

The versatility of the dual rotary drilling method has helped Frey Well Drilling maintain a steady workload even when the number of water wells needing to be drilled is low. This hole is for a utility pole (18 inches in diameter × 7 feet deep). Photos courtesy Frey Well Drilling.

WWJ: What have been your proudest moments in contributing to the design and testing of Foremost DR rigs over the years?
Frey: Our idea to Foremost, the DR manufacturer, was to change the old-style fuel-inefficient gear pump to the variable speed zero flow when not in use hydraulic system. We paid extra to have this on our second rig and added nob control pressure reliefs to both up, down, and rotation circuits. It is now the only way Foremost builds rigs.

WWJ: What is the most overlooked aspect of DR drilling?
Frey: The rig is very versatile. We drill large rock holes for utility poles, 30-foot-deep water wells to large-diameter water wells, and 500-foot-deep geothermal holes. Six-inch casing to 435 feet, 8-inch casing to 700 feet, and the list goes on.

“There is camaraderie within the dual rotary drillers. Call or email us. All of us will talk and help with well or rig problems and spare rig parts.”

WWJ: For drillers considering switching to DR, what are the top tips for them to consider?
Frey: Consider adding this rig to their fleet. However, keep the old rigs as you might still have a use for the rigs you have. Try the DR on all types of drilling and learn. Your employees will thank you.

WWJ: How long does the learning curve generally take for a driller switching to DR?
Frey: Learning curve is just weeks, especially for the younger generation. Drilling becomes even more fun with the DR. I’m still learning “tricks of the trade.”

Frey receives the Master Groundwater Contractor (MGWC) plaque at Groundwater Week 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

WWJ: As a Master Groundwater Contractor (MGWC), how should the industry’s mentors like yourself share their knowledge with the next generation of drillers?
Frey: I try to invite drillers and their young helpers to watch and even help. Don’t be afraid to hire a dual rotary for your difficult jobs. Maybe not buy one now but satisfy your customers by getting the job done by hiring a dual rotary colleague.

WWJ: What are your thoughts on the best way to train up and onboard a new driller?
Frey: Don’t think you have failed because you expect too much too soon. Everyone has a different learning curve. Leave the new driller alone early on and don’t scold failures. Mistakes make the best drillers. There is camaraderie within the dual rotary drillers. Call or email us. All of us will talk and help with well or rig problems and spare rig parts. My son [Brian Frey, CWD] has been to Ireland, Idaho, Pennsylvania,
and throughout New York to help on the DR. This article is because drillers help drillers.

WWJ: Lastly, what do you hope the industry looks like in the next 10 years?
Frey: The United States is changing to protect the Earth. Geothermal is and will be a must. The big bucks will be for the growing geothermal drilling company. The other side is the satisfaction of a good well, installed correctly, and a happy customer might be better than the big bucks. The dual rotary manufacturers realize this, so DR will be better and better and the owners will be happier and happier.

Earn NGWA’s MGWC Designation
The designation of NGWA’s Master Groundwater Contractor (MGWC) recognizes those who have proven exceptional knowledge and dedication in water well construction and pump installation.

To take the MGWC exam, candidates must be currently certified in good standing in all exam categories except for exams M and N and must have five years of full-time experience in well construction or pump installation in an operational or supervisory capacity. The eligible candidate is expected to possess good customer service and employee relations skills in addition to a solid technical operations background.

Click here to learn more.

Mike Price is the senior editor of Water Well Journal. In addition to his WWJ responsibilities, Price contributes to the Association’s scientific publications. He can be reached at mprice@ngwa.org, or at (800) 551-7379, ext. 1541.