In August of 2000, Jim McDonald, vice president of Northeast Water Production Inc. in Sterling, Mass., and I boarded a plane for Ghana, a small country on the western coast of Africa, to commission a Hydro-Frac rig and train a crew how to operate it. The Hydro-Frac rig was purchased by Mensa Nunyuie, owner of Kingaka Co. Ltd. in Ho, Ghana. For some time, he had been working with a Dutch consulting company on a project called Volta Region Community Water and Sanitation Program. The basic idea behind the project was to keep the villagers from moving to the overcrowded cities by providing them with safe drinking water and sanitation. Kingaka Co. Ltd., along with a few other companies, had been drilling the wells for this project and obtaining less than satisfactory results. In other words, no matter how many wells they drilled, they couldn't seem to get enough water. While in the United States, Mensa learned of a technique called Hydro-Fracking and proceeded to spend the next five years researching the technique and trying to sell the process to his employers. In late 1999, things finally started to move forward.
Lay of the LandMost villagers in Ghana have a very limited supply of water. They usually spend the better part of the day collecting water from surface sources. In some villages, I witnessed families walking as many as five miles to a muddy river with buckets on their heads to collect water. In one instance, I saw them scooping water from puddles, and in another instance, I saw an elaborate rainwater collection system where the rain was collected from the roof of one of the huts.
The bedrock formation in Ghana is much the same as it is in the northeastern United States. Most of the formation is comprised of granite, schist, mica, quartz, etc. There are two rainy seasons in most of the country, so there is ample recharge to the bedrock. The project dictates a maximum hole depth of 60 meters (approx. 200 feet). A minimum of 13.5 liters (4.5 gpm) is needed for a successful well, which will supply a village of 300-350 people. If a well was drilled and did not produce the needed volume, it was immediately backfilled and abandoned.
All wells, drilled with sufficient yield, are cased to the bottom of the overburden and a minimum of a hand pump is installed in them. In a few places where the yield was significantly higher than the minimum 4.5 gpm, solar powered pumps were installed that fed large cisterns and gravity fed water to various spigots throughout the village.
Trying Something NewWhen Mensa started to drill a lot of dry holes, he took it upon himself to try the Hydro-Frac process on a few of the wells. He got permission to leave some of the dry holes open, rented a Kyle Skid Mounted Hydro-Frac system from a Belgian company that was working in Cameroon, and proceeded to Hydro-Frac 35 wells. One well was in the village of Adaklu-Anfoe, a village where 10 previous wells had been drilled, and not one produced a sufficient amount of water. Out of those 35 wells that were Hydro-Fracked, all were successful in obtaining the minimum amount needed for a hand pump. The success ranged from a 75 percent increase to over a 1,000 percent increase, with the average being between 350-400 percent. That breaks down to an overall increase in yield of 3 gpm to 45 gpm.
At this point, Mensa knew he had a good idea, but the law about abandoning the well wasn't about to change just yet. Mensa decided to visit us at Kyle Equipment Co. in Sterling, Mass. At that time, we had a used Hydro-Frac unit complete with dual two-speed Hydro-Frac pumps, a packer inflate system, and a 12,000-pound hoist perfect for his application and ready to be mounted on a truck. Early in May of 2000, the Hydro-Frac unit was loaded onto a ship, and in August, Jim and I headed for Ghana.
The first village we visited was Adaklu -Sofa, a small village in the Volta Region, Ho District of Ghana. There were two wells in this village that needed to be Hydro-Fracked. Before we could Hydro-Frac the wells, a few problems needed to be addressed. These were problems that you just don't run into here in the States. For one, the suction and discharge hoses used to connect the water supply through a contractor's pump to the Hydro-Frac rig were standard pipe thread connections, but the pump they purchased had imperial threads on them. Another problem was the packer inflate line which comes with standard JIC fittings needing 1/2-inch and 9/16-inch wrenches. Mensa's problem was that only metric tools are available in Ghana, and since the fittings are a softer steel, the small difference in size between a 10mm and a 1/2-inch is enough to round off the corners of the fittings. The third obstacle was finding a 24-inch pipe wrench. All this equipment, which can normally be found in your local Sears or Wal-Mart, just isn't readily available in some parts of the world. Pipe wrenches were eventually found, and the 10mm worked until we could get 1/2-inch and 9/16-inch wrenches sent from the States, and the improvisational skills of the Kingaka employees headed by Emmanuel Ahiayibor were incredible. They fixed problems and completed jobs with whatever was handy.
Once we got the tool problem taken care of, the only problems we faced were logistical. Trying to get to a lot of the jobs was tough; this is why the Hydro-Frac rig was mounted on a huge all-wheel-drive army transport truck. In one case, we had to follow a footpath for almost a mile to the village. We had to tow the water truck in the entire way. Which brings us to the other problem - getting water to the jobs. Finding a local water truck is extremely difficult, and finding one that can go off road is almost impossible. The truck that we were working with carried 4,000 gallons of water, but once it left the road, it got stuck every time. The solution was to get a tractor towing a smaller tank behind it, but it had to travel so far to get the water, it made the tractor impractical. However, the Kingaka crew managed to find a way to get the water to the site every time.
At the first well, Jim and I ran the rig and pointed out to the Kingaka crew what we were doing and why. As the jobs went on, Jim and I had less and less involvement in the actual job, until we were finally just observers like rest of the villagers.
As we proceeded with the jobs, all the signs like large pressure drops, change in color of the discharged water, etc., were present. For the most part, the average pressures were about 800-1000 psi maximum for the first set, dropping down to about 300-400 psi, and 1700- 2200 psi maximum for the second set, dropping down to 500-900 psi. There were a couple of no breaks, maximum pressure build with no drop off, and a couple of wells where only one set was possible because of well depth and casing depth.
After each job was completed, no water went to waste. The villagers would all line up and collect the discharge water and the remaining water in the hoses. The villagers also came to help every time a truck got stuck. In all, we completed 12 wells in seven days, which is good by American standards, especially considering all of the problems we faced initially.