A uranium drilling project, located in Canada’s Patterson Lake South, presented a number of unique environmental and technical challenges for the resource company. AMC’s SRU™ was implemented to assist operations and reduce costs on site.
AMC SRU™ achieved:
- fluid Transport Savings up to US$120,000/month
- enhanced operational efficiency and productivity
- reduced environmental footprint and risk of contamination
- mud consumption reduced by 65-90%
- enabled cleaner and safer operations
||1 July - 30 September 2014
||Patterson Lake South (PLS) is located within the Athabasca Basin, which encompasses 100,000km2 within the Alberta and Saskatchewan provinces of Canada
||The site is within protected native land and hunting grounds. Environmental impact had to be minimised to protect the land and local wildlife. Avoiding contamination of the lake was also a priority
|Access / drill pads
||Four rigs were operating during the trial. Access was challenging due to the site’s remote location and position within the lake
||An existing mud program was in place. Rigs 1, 3 and 4 were running the same mud mixture. Rig 2 was running a slightly heavier mix. Enhanced cleaning properties (more cuttings being brought to the surface) were noted with Rig 2
|RIGS 1, 3 & 4
|Viscosity – 30 secs
||Viscosity – 33 secs
|600 – 15
||600 – 16
|300 – 10
||300 – 11
|PV – 5
||PV – 5
|YP – 5
||YP – 6
|Gels – 4/4
||Gels – 5/5
|Filtrate – <20 spurt loss = 2ml
||Filtrate – <20 spurt loss = 1.5ml
Sump = %0.25
Processed fluid = trace
Sump = %0.5
Processed fluid = trace
||The Athabasca Basin principally consists of sandstone sediment varying from 100 – 1000 metres in depth. Uranium ore is typically found at the base of this sandstone – at the point where it meets the basement
The uranium mining project is located within a lake surrounded by protected native land. The site is also within the migratory range of the Beverly Caribou herd – a major source of sustenance for the Denesuline communities. As an environmentally sensitive area, strict environmental policies apply to protect the natural environment, prevent contamination of the lake and the impact of drilling must be kept to an absolute minimum.
Logistical difficulties presented further challenges at this site. Being in an isolated location, with drilling operations mounted on barges on the lake, there is no infrastructure for mobilisation of equipment and management of fluid and drilling waste is costly and time consuming. This also presents a higher risk of environmental contamination through spills and leaks off the barge.
Fluid Transport Cost Savings up to $120,000/Month
Prior to using the SRU™, fluid was pumped from holding tanks on a barge into tanks on a support boat. These tanks were then transported to shore where the fluid was pumped into a sump approximately 0.5km up hill. This process occurred twice a shift for each drill and often presented pump and hose challenges for the crews.
Once the SRUs were in place, transportation of fluid from the drill rigs to the shore was not needed. This significantly reduced costs and increased operational efficiencies for the customer.
Savings relating to fluid transportation were estimated to be US$375 - US$500 per rig per shift. Based on these figures the monthly saving would be approximately US$90,000 - US$120,000.
Easy Cuttings Disposal
Cuttings processed via the SRU™’s high speed centrifuge produce a semi-dry solid, reducing slurry volumes by up to 75%. This enables easy removal from the barge, with a bag weighing approximately 1500lbs being removed via helicopter twice a day. feedback from the crew suggested the bag changes “took only a matter of minutes”.
Efficient Operations Boost Productivity
The SRUs successfully enhanced the efficiency of operations and increased productivity. During the trial the crew did not experience any mechanical failures or downtime for the drills, less time was spent mixing fluids and cuttings removal was significantly enhanced. The efficiency of the operations was supported by the customer extending the program by 15 holes within the same project time frame.
Cleaner and Safer Environment
Feedback from the crews suggested the SRUs were much cleaner to work with. Other recycling equipment used in the past had covered the barge and the operator in drilling fluids, which made it difficult to contain and presented safety and environmental risks.
This unique project was deemed a success by AMC and its customer. The barge mounted SRUs reduced costs associated with mud usage and transportation of fluids; increased operational efficiencies; and importantly, enabled cleaner and safer operations within this environmentally sensitive area. Feedback from the customer also highlighted the high level of training and support provided by AMC, ensuring smooth set up and operation.
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Key Benefits for Drilling Company
- Reduced fluid waste and transport costs
- Reduced water consumption and cartage costs
- Reduced mud usage and associated costs
- Reduced slurry volume, waste cartage and disposal
- Improved productivity leading to extension of drill program
- Reduced wear and tear on drill components
- Reduction in drill downtime, no mechanical failures experienced
- Saves time managing and mixing mud
- Improved on-site health and safety, reducing slips and hazards due to mess, mud and water.
Key Benefits for Resource Company
- Minimises environmental contamination risk
- Increased drilling productivity
- Reduced project costs, including water consumption and mud usage, and associated costs
- Drilling programs can expand to previously inaccessible areas
- Facilitated access to environmentally sensitive or remote drill sites
- Extended drill program, additional 15 holes completed in project time frame
- Improved relationships with land owners.