Water Well Drilling Isn't Just About the Hole
In Shelton, Wash., 20 miles northwest of Olympia, and home to Arcadia Drilling - a family business that specializes in residential water well drilling - local residents remember a stretch of 53 days without sun; but that doesn't seem to bother them. Arcadia Drilling likes the weather along with the tall firs, the abundant lakes and the lazy days fishing; and they like drilling water wells.
Arcadia Drilling offers water well drilling, pump and filtration services. With a staff of 23 employees at two locations, Arcadia Drilling specializes in residential water well drilling within a 100-mile radius of its Shelton headquarters. The company also performs water well drilling for developers and handles contracts for municipalities, irrigators and small cities all over the state of Washington. The company's distinctive “hog” logo is well known.
Bill Neal Sr., president of Arcadia, knows how important a water well is to a homeowner. “Without water, your property is just about worthless,” Neal remarks. “We understand this and work with the homeowner throughout the process. The owner has to have his well drilled and tested before he can develop his property. When we get a call to work on a residential water well, the first thing we do is ask where they are in the process. What do they need to have done - and when - to move on?”
Knowing where a customer is in the process is important information to Neal and his team because it helps them plan their schedule. It's more than just drilling a well to Neal. It's helping his customers get the best service they can from his company. And this includes being sensitive to the overall process, not just drilling the well.
“We even will help our customers get variances when needed,” says Neal. “Our company supports our customers in whatever way we can.” Neal has even assisted his customers through expert witness testimony.
The Business of WaterNeal takes the business of water very seriously and the way he runs his own business shows it. He is actively involved in the Washington State Ground Water Association, and as vice president of the association, Neal works closely with the Department of Ecology and the state legislature, so each is kept up-to-date and informed on water issues. The association affects the drafting and passing of property laws and helps ensure that the laws keep the property owner in mind and also protect their rights to drill wells.
In addition, the Washington State Ground Water Association works on setting drilling standards, licensing and continuing education. Neal wrote the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the association and the Department of Ecology regarding the development and implementation of continuing education courses for drillers.
Drillers in the state of Washington must complete a three-year apprenticeship and training program, including 100 hours on a drill rig, before they become licensed drillers. This includes being a qualified welder. A driller must maintain a certain competency level and take seven hours of continuing education courses annually to maintain his license. Arcadia Drilling hires workers as apprentices and works closely to help them get through their training to become licensed drillers.
This work with the Washington State Water Association, the Department of Ecology and continuing education for drillers is part of the overall efforts Arcadia Drilling expends for its customers. Everything Neal and the company work on is toward the complete process of providing quality water wells in the most cost-effective and efficient manner possible. This means utilizing the best-performing equipment and drillers in the industry as well. And when Sandvik Mining and Construction's Driltech product group wanted to design and field-test a new air-rotary drill rig, it needed a willing partner.
Field TestingThe Driltech product group, part of Sandvik Mining and Construction headquartered in Atlanta, is always advancing its products through continuous research and development. Its latest efforts produced a new casing hammer drill design for air/mud rotary and down-the-hole (DTH) drills - the Marlin 5. Needing a willing partner to field-test its casing hammer unit, Driltech contacted Forge Welkin, its western region dealer representing 13 states, believing that one of Welkin's customers would be interested in working on the field testing. Driltech also contacted Welkin for another reason: It needed a strong dealer that wouldn't be afraid to provide honest feedback - rooted in knowledge and hands-on experience.
Steve Kaser, water well and DTH product manager for Welkin, has a strong history in the drilling industry. He was a natural choice to work with Driltech staff on this project. Kaser also had the perfect company in mind to approach as a partner - Arcadia Drilling. Kaser was well aware of the excellent reputation Arcadia Drilling had in the community and of the high-quality well drilling capabilities of the firm. Kaser knew the varied conditions Arcadia Drilling drillers face every day, and how they needed a rig that could be transported easily, set up quickly and perform effortlessly in the toughest rock conditions.
Neal and Kaser have a respectful, 20-year working relationship. They go back to the days when Kaser was in technical support for another company and responsible for starting up drill rigs and selling tools and bits. It was this long-term relationship that convinced Neal to sign on to test the prototype of the new Driltech Marlin 5 design with the casing hammer setup.
Ed Nelson, one of Arcadia Drilling's top drillers, has spent the last 16 years drilling - six of those years with Arcadia Drilling. Nelson has worked on five different makes of drills, with the majority of them in cable drilling. Ed Nelson had never run a rotary drill before the Marlin 5. According to Kaser, “In less than a week, he (Nelson) was out in the field poking holes with the Marlin 5. That's a testament to his ability as a driller and to the efficiency of the Marlin 5.”
The Marlin 5, part of the Marlin series of truck engine-powered drill rigs, is a top-drive drill designed for mud rotary, down-the-hole (DTH) and casing hammer applications. Pullback is up to 20,000 pounds, and the air compressor is up to 750 cfm/350 psi, making it ideal for a variety of DTH hammers. Typical mud rotary application is 10-inch boreholes (6-inch well size) to 800-foot depth, although 1,250-foot depth may be possible, depending on site conditions.
Driltech technicians helped Neal and Nelson - along with Kaser - put the Marlin 5 casing hammer rig through its paces. Over several months, Driltech worked closely with Arcadia Drilling and Welkin to make improvements and modify the unit's design. From this feedback, and after thoroughly field-testing the unit in Shelton, Driltech incorporated the modifications into the next production Marlin 5 unit. Not surprisingly, Neal decided to purchase another Marlin 5 drill rig last December. Since then, the Marlin 5 has become an integral part of Arcadia Drilling's business.
Nelson has been key in helping Kaser and Driltech determine what worked well and what could work even better. “The Marlin 5 is easy to run, efficient and real fast drilling,” remarks Nelson. “The unit also is quick to set up. You just pretty much drop your pads and you're drilling. When you are moving from job site to job site to drill several times a day, you want a drill rig that is transportable and fast to set up to cut down idle time. The only time a driller is making money is when he is drilling.”
The Marlin 5 has drilled 6- to 8-inch holes to depths of 120 feet to 140 feet in 11?2 hours. In open hole drilling, it can do 320 feet in six hours, and, in cased well drilling, it will do 280 feet in the same amount of time.
Collaborative Efforts Pay Off
Even though Arcadia Drilling was working with Driltech to put a new drill rig design through its paces, they didn't hesitate to purchase a second Marlin 5 machine. Strong working relationships, a team of engineers, a dealer, a water well drilling company and a drill operator were able to bring to market the first-of-its-kind casing hammer drill rig with features designed in large part by the customer and the operator - to benefit the customer and the operator. It truly is a drill rig made in Arcadia Drilling “hog” heaven.
Family Business Spans Three GenerationsBill Neal Sr., the president of Arcadia Drilling, is a second-generation owner. He hopes that his son, Bill Jr. - who currently works for the firm in sales - will one day take over the business. Founded in 1962, Arcadia Drilling was purchased by Neal's father in 1983. A long-time driller himself, the elder Neal had only two drills, two one-ton trucks and a meager supply of old tools to start his new business.
There was plenty of water well business at the time, but the company's old rotary rig was worn out and it was difficult to keep it running. Bill Neal Sr. likes to tell the story of how he and his father saw a new drill at a regional trade show, but couldn't consider buying it because they needed to sell their old rig first and Neal's father was leaving on vacation. But Neal is the type of individual who will quickly move on something when it seems the right thing to do. While his father was packing, Neal called the dealer. It just so happened that the dealer had a buyer who probably would consider Arcadia Drilling's used rig; so Neal went to the bank and borrowed the money for the new rig. He called his father and said, “In the last four hours I sold our old rig, got a loan and bought the new drill. Have a nice vacation.”
Since that day, Bill Neal Sr. has never looked back.
Neal's philosophy is “take care of the customer.” “You've got to know how to get the project done and how to make the customer happy to be successful,” he says. “Water well drilling is part of a process and knowing where our customers are in that process helps us understand how we can help them.” Since Steve Kaser and Forge Welkin and Neal practice the same philosophy, their relationship is one of mutual respect and the desire to do the job right. This was one of the reasons Neal considered working with Driltech on the Marlin 5 casing hammer design.
“Service is the primary business we are in,” continues Neal. The number of “thank-you” letters he receives from customers praising his employees is testament to this philosophy. And Neal respects his employees. Nelson likes working for Arcadia Drilling because safety comes first and Neal makes sure employees have top-quality equipment that is well maintained. Even though Nelson lives 60 miles away, the commute is worth it to him. He likes his job, he likes the company and he likes how the employees are treated.