In the 1950s, George E. Failing Co. designed a reverse-circulation drill called the JED-A. The JED stood for Jet Eductor Devise, and the A, if I remember right, was the first version of the drill. It was a new design to drill up to 60-inch diameter holes to 600 feet using reverse-circulation.
To test this technology, the first water well was drilled on George E.
Failing’s plantation in his backyard. He cased off the shallow 60-foot waters,
and drilled the hole to 600 feet in red shale – it was dry, and, for the
intended purpose, useless. My dad later was sent by George Failing to Nebraska
to drill large irrigation wells with a JED-A.
Because all of the cuttings come up the hole through the drill stem, they used
6-inch-by-10-foot flanged drill stem. They used a 10-foot drill stem because
using 20-foot drill stem would cause a lift problem with suction lift, or the
eductor. They ended up using straight suction lift, meaning all drill cuttings
had to go through the pump to the mud pit.
Later on, reverse air became the standard in that an air line was installed
inside the first joint or so. As long as the hole was kept full of fluid, the
air lifted the mud and cuttings up through the swivel and into the mud pit, and
cleaned mud (free of cuttings) flowed back to the hole, hence, the name
This method continues today on large-diameter holes in the United States and
other countries. It allows large-diameter holes to be drilled in soft to
reasonably hard formations without washing out potholes or requiring large
quantities of drilling additives and water; however, it does require
large-diameter drill stems.
You aren’t so concerned about dropping tools in reverse-drilled holes; you just
want to be more concerned about falling into the hole.
While setting up to drill some large-diameter wells in Nebraska in the ’50s, my
dad was badly burned when a salamander heater backfired, setting his clothes on
fire. They were attempting to pour diesel on the ground and set it afire to
thaw out the ground so the dozers could dig the mud pits. Dad was the first one
there; he jumped into a ditch and smothered the fire with his overcoat. When he
got up, he saw he was sitting next to a keg of dynamite. He traveled back to
Enid, Okla., and was in the hospital for several months.
Dad slipped out of the hospital one day to assist me in buying my first rig
from the city of Enid – they never missed him. That’s another story for another
A bit of history: George Failing named his rigs to fit their application. Model
314 was a rig built for the U.S. Army in 1944 (for which I have an original
manual). CFDs were chain feed drills. There was a large Failing 44, as well as
the Failing 66 – I don’t know the reason for the numbers. I was told that
George E. was sitting at his breakfast table one morning and saw his wife’s
Mixmaster mixer, hence, the name Drillmaster drills.
I try to keep some of this history alive because when I’m gone, who cares!
Porky's Hole Thoughts: Reverse-circulation Drilling
May 1, 2012