Chapter 2 of A Really, Really Difficult Drilling Job
In chapter one of this long, drawn out tale of the toughest job I’ve ever had, we had spudded a casing down on a vacant property where a house was going to be moved. We had driven the casing to refusal — at least for that rig — and in attempting to pull it had snapped it off below ground. We decided perhaps mud rotary was the way to go on this job, but a good friend who had such a rig got in a squabble with his partners and was unable to help us out. Thus begins chapter two.
Through the help of an officer of the Michigan Well Drillers Association we found another contractor some distance away who was willing to run a hole for us. At their request, we visited them and described what had taken place on this job up to that point. They asked about the geology on this site and we told them all we had found was fine sand, some wet and some dry. With this information they asked us to dig a couple of mud pits where we wanted to try a new hole. We got a backhoe and dug two 4-foot-deep pits in the ground about 4 feet-by-6 feet with an earthen wall between them. We had chosen a spot about 50 feet from where we had had our spudder disaster.
Sure enough, our new friends showed up with their mud rotary on the day we expected them, it being a popular brand of table drive machine. They also had a flatbed tender truck with a rather small water tank. Today, the rotary drillers around here go out with at least 2,000 gallons of water, and I know of some who take 3,000 gallons, even if this makes the water truck over weight. At the time of this job, drillers seemed to think you could get by with 500 gallons or so. Our friends asked that we help them with the water supply as they began to drill. I was put to work hauling water from the land owner’s current location with a trailer-mounted tank pulled by a pickup. I think the rotary drillers were actually filling their tank from the nearby river, which is not a good idea at all. Between their truck and my trailer tanker, we were barely able to keep up with what water they needed.
My dad, the landowner and the landowner’s next-door neighbor watched the rotary drilling proceed. The next-door neighbor was also a customer of ours. About 2 p.m., I came in with a full tanker and was told that they had attempted to set 4-inch casing, which we had provided. It stopped dead right at about 130 feet, which was as far as we had gotten with our spudder. A confab was held — in other words, a group discussion — and our rotary friends said they had the casing set and we could take over and finish the well.
I guess at this point, I had become boss of the job and, after looking at their samples, I knew they were nowhere near a water well. I asked them if they had a spudder and they said they had a brand new one, and it was a big one. I told them that’s just what we needed and to bring it on the job, as our deal was they would make a water well for us, not just set a string of casing. They said they would be back the next day with their spudder and left for home.
The next morning, they showed up with their spudder — a very good machine and one plenty large enough to drive this casing. They set up over the hole and went to driving. After driving the casing about 6 feet, they were getting nowhere fast and this large machine, which I must admit was a very good machine, was doing no better than our small spudder (as I wrote in chapter one in October’s National Driller). Another confab was held and our rotary friends said they did not think you could make a water well in the sands they had encountered, and they wanted to mix up some really heavy mud and go to the bedrock. We tried hard to get across the point that the bedrock in our county is a decent aquifer in only a very few places, and this site was not one of them. Without much choice, we agreed to let them drill to bedrock.
They told us they would run a 3-inch casing to the bedrock, and then drill open hole into it. They said they had plenty of 3-inch casing pipe, but it had the wrong couplings. You experienced drillers know that 3-inch threaded and coupled pipe will not go into a 4-inch casing. The OD of the 3-inch pipe coupling is simply too large to fit in 4-inch pipe. We agreed to make some so-called turned couplings which, in effect, are regular couplings machined to a smaller diameter. We agreed to continue operations in two days and secured a bunch of 3-inch couplings and turned them down on a lathe in our shop.
Readers, I’m going to, like the “Perils of Pauline” movie serials, leave you at this point and it looks to me like it will take another or perhaps two more chapters to complete the story of this very difficult job. I will tell you the final result is a good one.
The weather here in Michigan in mid-September is like it would normally be in mid-July — hot and humid. We are also in a mini drought, so my famous grass is not growing and I am not mowing. Until next time, work safely and try to take a little bit of time to enjoy life. We here in Michigan have recently lost three longtime industry members to death; they ranged in age from age 68 to 101. As a pastor said at one of the funerals I attended, “Life is fleeting; remember to enjoy it.”
For more John Schmitt columns, visit www.nationaldriller.com/schmitt.