Well drilling

In many areas where well-intentioned charity or church groups operate, it can take months to organize the successful drilling of a single well. Source: iStock

In 1989, Drilling Consultants International was formed to teach well drilling all over the world. It was soon realized that drillers in the United States have yet to realize the importance of hiring a consultant. Many drillers in the U.S. are confident and don’t want advice from others … until they have a serious problem. Many are only experienced in their local area. Drilling in other countries and geographical formations sometimes proves to be a serious challenge.

Good intentioned special interest groups and church groups who wish to provide water wells think that all they need is a well rig and they can drill wells. Not so. The first expense of any such group should be hiring a drilling consultant to address the following points:

  • What is the geographical formation?
  • What type of drilling equipment is required? The choice of drill rigs are air, mud rotary or cable tool.
  • What diameter and depth do they want to drill? If they want to drill fast, they can. But that uses a lot of fuel. They can also drill more slowly using a cable tool drill and use a lot less fuel.
  • Do the people operating the drill have experience or do they need training?
  • If they need training, does the instructor/teacher have experience training others?

All of these above questions must be answered before choosing the proper drill and support equipment. Too often, I see these people purchase improper equipment and tools. Before purchasing a rig they must know if they will be drilling in sands, clays, rock or all of the above.

The proper equipment doesn’t mean much without the skills to go along with it, and many experienced drillers don’t make good teachers. They may know drilling but don’t know how to teach drilling. Does the driller instructor have patience and persistence? If not, that person can’t be a good instructor. Most drillers want to do everything themselves. But teaching drilling is like teaching a person to drive a vehicle. The student learns very little until they get behind the wheel (or the drill rig in this case).

Groups need to make sure that proper skills — and the ability to teach those skills — accompany the drilling equipment sent to the jobsite, wherever it is.

As far as equipment, shortly after contracting a consulting firm, the driller instructor should be provided with a detailed inventory of everything included with the drilling machine. This way, the instructor can add or subtract inventories. Then, once the drilling instructor arrives he can check all inventories against the invoice.

Things don’t happen fast in developing countries and many times the drilling instructor will be in a country for days, weeks or even months before actual drilling starts.

Even though a drilling instructor probably has his own cellular phone, it’s a good idea to have people contracted to provide a local cellular phone. Cellular phones are the most reliable phones in developing countries. It’s also my recommendation that the driller instructor have his own computer with local Internet access (this is invaluable)!!!

Being out of the teacher’s comfort zone, it’s a good idea to have a local person (a “go-for”) to locate and negotiate additional supplies and equipment. Most American drillers are not good negotiators. In many cases, suppliers in foreign countries usually prefer that the purchaser negotiate the purchase.

It’s also advisable to have a local driver available 24 hours per day, seven days a week. Only they know the local rules, places to eat and places to stay clear of. If a group doesn’t contract a driver (with an acceptable vehicle) they must provide one.

My son Piglet is on a consulting contract in East Africa. He was there for over a month before they were able to move the drill to the first drill site. Much of the support equipment, tools and well supplies, whether ordered or not, didn’t arrive with the drill. A contract that was originally negotiated for one month has now been extended. So, even with the best preparation, bringing water well drilling skills and drill machines to an unfamiliar country is a big challenge.


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