6 keys to more cost-effective mineral exploration drilling fluid programs
Aug 13, 2020
By Walker Dillabough, Drilling Fluids Manager at Di-Corp
How do you decide what drilling fluid additives you and your team are going to utilize from day to day, or project to project? Have you ever analyzed what you’re truly spending on drilling fluids additives for mineral exploration?
I know what you’re thinking – “Of course I know what I’m spending! I have the bills and I know how many bags/pails we used.” Great, that’s excellent information and a very useful starting point to help you manage costs going forward. But there’s even more you can do and other considerations you should also keep in mind. When you take a deeper look at some key factors of the drilling program for a project, you might find some significant opportunities to trim fluids costs and strengthen margins on your current drill. A periodic deep dive is a good habit to maintain efficiency and maximize profits on every job.
Let’s look at some of the key things that can help you get more value from your fluids and fluid additives. For a comprehensive list of considerations, download an example of Di-Corp’s Fast Track Fluids Tool (FTFT) – a handy tool you can use in pre-planning and optimizing your drilling fluids program in order to avoid problems and minimize downtime. In the meanwhile, here are six quick things you can consider to evaluate the efficiency of your fluids program on the fly.
- Need – Start with the question that many may overlook. Do you even need fluids additives? Can you get away with periodic greasing of rods and just pump water? To answer these questions think about what the area geology has taught you in the past. If this is a new project, in a new area for you, then reach out to Di-Corp’s team of drilling fluids professionals for a free consultation. We don’t just manufacture and sell high-quality fluids, drilling rods, and core retrieval tools, we also bring a ton of real-world drilling experience to the table. Our team includes several people, each with over a decade of drilling and fluids experience. So whatever challenge you’re facing, chances are our people have been there, done that, and are happy to offer support and practical suggestions.
- Overall Fluids Performance – Our marketing and sales teams hate it when I say that mud companies all sell pretty much the same stuff. But it’s true to some degree and you should be aware of that. So if you happen across a product that promises to fix all your problems for fewer dollars, be wary. There are some great products out there, especially our Earth Pro brand fluids (shameless plug!). But take a close look at bargains, or products that claim to provide a miracle cure. Ask around to see if they’ve delivered as promised for other drillers. On site, observe performance of your fluid additives and be critical of their performance under changing conditions. If you switched to a new pallet of fluids and, for no other reason, the next day you are experiencing problems with anything that fluid may come into contact with, then have a critical look at the fluid in question. What’s different about the new pallet of product?
- Performance of Specific Product – This is a numbers game that not many companies want to enter. It is very hard to quantify performance of drilling fluid without constantly performing head to head tests in a real world scenario. Just remember: if you are paying remarkably less for a product touted to do the same job as one that costs much more, it’s likely diluted. And yes, even solid products can be diluted. The old saying “you get what you pay for” is true even in drilling fluids.
- Unit Cost – The economics of fluids and fluid additives can be altered significantly by unit cost. Everyone pays attention to it - I’ve yet to run into a customer who can’t quickly recall what they are paying for a competitor’s product. Unit cost is a big deal, and the units used to measure can make a huge difference. If you are certain the products you are comparing perform equally then break down their price per kilogram or pound of active ingredient in the package you are being quoted. There’s a big difference between a 50lb Bag and a 25kg bag, or a pail that holds 5 gal vs 20L. Look closely at quotes and make sure you are comparing apples to apples by breaking down the $/weight spend.
- Shipping – You may be loading out a one-ton truck to head to site, or you may be loading out a sea can to head to South Africa. Shipping is inevitable, as are the huge costs associated with it. If you have done your due diligence on “Need” and “Performance”, then shipping is the next largest hurdle. Always consider dry products, especially when shipping and/or rig location is a challenge. Dry products are more concentrated so you get more bang for your buck. Generally speaking, dry products can also tolerate the rigors of travel much better.
When you consider the pound-for-pound cost to heli-lift material to a drill, then it is vital to have a keen awareness of how far you can make a pail or bag of polymer go. By switching from liquids to dry product on intense or remote projects, you could be saving 50% off the heli lift bills associated with your drilling fluids. Container disposal and recycling can also be significantly lower with dry, bagged product.
- Packaging and Ease of Use – Time is money, and little things add up. Utilizing additives in most mining operations means adding additives in small quantities at regular intervals. Simple, often overlooked aspects of additives packaging can be game changers for time saving and for the safety of front line workers on drills. For example, when you purchase in pails, do those pails have easy open tops for access and disposal? Is there a scoop or metering device on or in product to prevent overuse/waste? Are bentonite bags reinforced or lined? Are the products you buy differentiated enough to help avoid human error in adding the wrong product at the wrong time? All these little things can add up, potentially turning a lower-cost product into an expensive problem that undercuts your bottom line cost per meter or cost per foot drilled.
Di-Corp can help you maximize the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of your drilling fluids buy with detailed fluids programming, effective and high-quality fluids and additives, and trouble-shooting of drilling challenges. Learn more by downloading Di-Corp’s Drilling Fluids Service Model for Mineral Exploration, or contact a Di-Corp drilling fluids expert to start planning your next fluids program.