The modern driller: Benefitting from evolving solids control

AMC’s SRU™ has been increasingly popular for operations with private or restricted land due to the reduced environmental impact and site footprint required.

As drilling contractors are faced with increasing costs related to drilling fluids and waste disposal, solids control is becoming more integral to the productivity, safety and overall impact of drilling. With over 25 years of supply, service and research with drilling fluids in the international minerals market, AMC introduced it’s award-winning Solids Removal Unit™ range as a modern alternative to the use of earthen sumps.

For the initial development of our technology, we noticed our customers were consuming large quantities of fluid - which diminished in quality while in sumps, and used excessive amounts of water – particularly in dry or remote climates. Foreseeing increased issues regarding productivity, environmental impact and general on-site safety, AMC developed the SRU™ range to withstand these changes.

AMC’s Solids Removal Unit™ provides a closed-loop system to maintain clean, non-abrasive mud. The unit recycles the drilling fluid directly from the drill collar. Fluid is processed by the SRU™’s shaker screens and centrifuge, separating the drilled solids from the mud slurry and discharging them via a chute. Cleaned drilling fluids are transferred to the active tank where the recycled mud is returned back to the drill hole. Results from our case studies prove that our units are able to deliver multiple customer benefits and savings that outweigh the cost of the unit.

By using the SRU™, our clients have achieved overall water reductions up to 86%. Savings primarily occur due to the prevention of seepage, contamination and evaporation which would normally occur while using sumps. A reduction in the amount of water delivers benefits across a range of considerations; using less water limits the transport required to and from the drill site, lowers traffic and personnel required. While water is readily accessible in some locations, in many it is scarce, difficult and expensive to access, and can cause conflict within the community. The SRU™ can significantly alleviate these issues. In a case study on an underground site in Western Australia, AMC’s Underground SRU™ demonstrated an immediate reduction in water usage from 14,000L to 2,000L per shift. Reducing water consumption by 86%, together with reduced power, pump, piping and surface storage space required to vacate water – to provide a considerable benefit.

The SRU™’s closed loop system enables fluid to be recycled, removing solids down to 5 micron and keeping fluid properties optimal. With clean drilling fluid, drilling issues such as sludging, bit balling and stuck pipe are minimised, reducing wear and tear on drill components, maintenance, replacement time and associated costs. As a result, drill crews can spend less time monitoring mud systems and focus on drilling – for increased bit on bottom time. At an exploration project in Western Australia, mud consumption was reduced by 50% when circulated through the Surface SRU™ (3000L), as opposed to utilising mud sumps (approx. 21,600L). Data obtained showed potential savings of $16,200 per month in mud.

Disposing of drill cuttings is expensive and can create logistical complexity for operations. The SRU™ creates drier, lighter cuttings. Cuttings with a high water content are heavier and more costly to transport, and can only be disposed of in approved disposal facilities. Waste may also need to be pumped from sumps into trucks for disposal, adding cost to provide staff, trucks, piping and equipment, particularly in remote locations.

At a trial in Papua New Guinea, 14,000L of unsuitable mud from the sumps was circulated through the Surface SRU™, converting it to reusable clean fluid. The volume of the cuttings removed was only 250L, a 98% reduction in waste volume ! As well as returning the cleaned fluid for reuse and cutting the mud consumption, the cost and time associated with cartage and disposal, plus contamination risks on private land was significantly reduced.

Without the need to dig ground sumps, the SRU™ eliminates all costs involved with site installation and rehabilitation as well as reducing the overall site footprint. The SRU™’s mud system is contained in the on-board tanks and piped directly to and from the drill collar, minimising the risk of leaks, slip and trip hazards as well as ensuring there is no risk to the local wildlife. The SRU™’s dry cuttings are also less likely to cause contamination through runoff.

Reducing the health and safety risks for workers is the number one focus for resource companies and drilling contractors. By minimising water, waste and mud on site, less transport is required to and from the site therefore reduced chance of accidents. A decrease in manual handling due to reduced sump maintenance and mud management is also beneficial.

Our SRU™ technology is available in multiple configurations. The Surface SRU™ is mounted for easy setup, transport and manoeuvrability on site, the Underground SRU™ eliminates the need for water to pump constantly to the surface to operate the drill rig and the Heli-portable SRU™ is a compact, mobile design that can be assembled in only 20 minutes. We also have a Modular SRU™ which is adapted to HDD, mud rotary and chipping operations, as well as client-specific equipment in our fleet.

Our SRU™ technology has been an integral component of our clients’ drill sites, and embraced for its environmental, financial, QHSE and productivity benefits. Our SRU™ models are constantly updating and adapting to our client’s needs. We are currently trialling our new Lightweight solution, which was developed in line with challenges faced in Africa. We flagged issues such as requirements for an even smaller and more mobile unit. Primary concerns regarding ease of crossing between sites in rugged terrain, meant the unit would be more desirable if it could be towed and manoeuvred by a 4WD instead of by truck. As an evolution of our design, the Lightweight Solids Removal Unit™ combines the best features from our existing models; it can be trailer, truck or skid mounted, easily towed by a 4WD and transported via helicopter in five lifts.

AMC has also developed on-board technology to record data, manage and prevent issues. Our Preventative Maintenance and Management System (PMMS) manifests in the form of a touch screen HMI with integrated desktop and smartphone app software, replacing the traditional push button system. This upgrade is currently being rolled out on selected units, providing operational control, monitoring, reporting and troubleshooting from any location globally. This technology will revolutionise the way we service our clients; keeping our units in top condition, streamlining processes for our customers and cultivating the safe use of our equipment.
AMC believes these advancements will be a welcome improvement in our international markets. To find out more about the benefits of our Solids Removal Unit™ range, read case studies or about new innovations in our range – head to our website