WWJ Closeup, July 2024

Published On: June 20, 2024By Categories: Drilling, Geothermal Technology, Workforce Development, WWJ Closeup

GRANT HENRY
Mid-America Drilling Corp.
Project Manager
Oakland, Iowa

HOW HAS SWITCHING FROM TABLE DRIVE TO TOPHEAD DRIVE IMPACTED DRILLING EFFICIENCY?
Switching to a tophead with rod loading capabilities has greatly improved our efficiency on geo projects.  The rod loading allows for only a driller to be on the rig without disturbing production.  This allows the second person to complete daily tasks during the drilling operation that in the past would have slowed or stopped rig production to accomplish. Now the rig can run until the end of the day where the table drives shut down two to three hours earlier in order to  complete grouting and other tasks before quitting for the day.

TOP LESSON LEARNED IN DRILLING WITH A TOPHEAD DRIVE RIG?
I went from a table drive with a piston pump and a portable mud pit to a tophead with a centrifugal pump and a mud handling system, so the amount of lessons I have learned in the past year are numerous. The biggest lesson in transitioning to a tophead is determining the formations that I’m drilling in and how clean the borehole is.  With a table drive, you can hear the chattering of sand, or feel the swelling clay build up on the borehole when you ream. The tophead is very smooth, cutting easily through sand and most other formations. The amount of power it has on the up and down stroke can hide the fact that the clays in the hole are swelling on you. 

WHAT MINDSET CHANGE IS NEEDED TO TAKE ON GEOTHERMAL PROJECTS?
One must believe in the advantages of geothermal, the efficiency of the system itself, and the desire to make the world a better place.  Then, it’s like any other project you take on.  Look at the task at hand, think it through start to finish, give yourself all the tools and resources needed to accomplish it, then attack it. The last hole on a geo project is always a good feeling.

HOW CAN DRILLING FIRMS RECRUIT THE NEXT GENERATION OF WORKERS?
Recruiting the next generation and hiring in general are things we are always working on in our company. Picking the right person who will fit into your company—and considering your mission, beliefs, and the existing crew—is not an easy task, and adding the next generation into the mix is even more challenging. In our company, we rely on a hiring agency, our current employees word of mouth, and prayers to bring in the right people. The next generation has a lot of technology at their fingertips, so one way a company could improve recruiting is to start putting more on social media to drive interest in their company and the industry we work in.

THOUGHTS ON GEOTHERMAL WORK IN 2024 AND BEYOND?
The geothermal market appears to be very healthy for 2024 and into the near future.  The tax incentives have caused many businesses to consider geothermal rather than stopping when they see the higher initial price tag. Public awareness of greenhouse gas emissions and their harm on the environment, plus the desire to install energy efficient, green technologies in their homes, businesses, schools, hospitals, etc. is also increasing the amount of  jobs coming to bid in the near future. 

HOW CAN DRILLING FIRMS SCALE UP TO TAKE ON GEOTHERMAL?
Hire a drilling company already in the industry to work alongside them on a few projects until they establish proven standard operating procedures. In the early 2000s, new drilling firms came into our area and left customers with sour tastes in their mouths from negligent work and faulty systems.
This was detrimental to our industry and it has taken years to overcome this negative marketing.

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