Boart Longyear: Engineering ideas

Boart Longyear’s global engineering and drilling services teams are uniquely intertwined. Australian Mining finds out what the company’s approach brings to drilling innovation.

Due to having a team of engineers located throughout the world working closely with in-house drilling teams, Boart Longyear is able to develop products and put them through rigorous testing in both the lab and the field.

It is a combination that affords the company certain advantages, according to Shayne Drivdahl, Boart Longyear vice president, global engineering.

“The collaboration between members of the global engineering team and Boart Longyear’s drillers elevates the performance of both Boart Longyear Drilling Products and Boart Longyear Drilling Services,” he explains.

This collaboration entails the testing of new technologies during contract drilling exploration and production drilling, providing tangible results that are shared across multiple regions in which the company operates, including Australia (Asia Pacific), Europe, Africa and the Americas.

Boart Longyear engineers maintain a global footprint and have produced several drilling innovations in recent years using these techniques.

Examples range from smaller parts, such as drill bits, through to major engineering projects involving complex machinery.

One example of a change that resulted from the upgrade of small parts is a project Boart Longyear worked on with AngloGold Ashanti at the Yilgarn Craton in Western Australia’s Laverton district.

Through the development of chemically bonded diamond tip drill bits (called Longyear Bits), the company saw a 23 per cent increase in metres drilled per hour at the mine.

Drill bits previously used at the project had resulted in performance of 22 centimetres per minute of penetration and an average 180-metre bit life over a three-month period.

Over the course of three months, the use of Longyear Green Bits saw penetration rates increase to an average of 26 centimetres per minute while bit life increased by 98 per cent to 356 metres per bit. Longyear Yellow and Red Bits were later used to drive further production increases at the site.

Another technical project involved the integration of Boart Longyear’s in-house drill control interface (DCi) system for safer and more efficient operation of the company’s LM Series drill rigs at BHP’s Olympic Dam.

The DCi was used in combination with LM75 drill rigs to drill a total of 5726.3 metres over a six-month period, an increase of 907.7 metres over the previous six months and a cost improvement of $US2.90 per metre drilled.

These efficiency gains were made partially possible by the DCi’s integration of programmable logic controllers (PLC) system, allowing supervisors semi-autonomous freedom to arrange drilling parameters.

This allowed drilling to continue during shift changeovers and breaks, resulting in a 13.5 per cent increase to productivity.

In similar fashion, Northern Star Resources brought Boart Longyear onboard for directional drilling of a paste fill hole at the Paulsens gold mine in Western Australia.

Northern Star required a particularly large hole for this project of 310mm in diameter to accommodate a 203.2mm casing down the length of the hole. Usually this would involve the drilling of a preliminary pilot hole followed by time-consuming rotary drilling passes.

Boart Longyear engineers decided to use a drill rig setup designed for water wells that could accommodate Northern Star’s large casing requirements. This example of thinking outside the box allowed the project to be completed in one pass as opposed to the usual two or three passes expected of a typical rotary setup.

The engineers added additional mobility to the drill rig with the move to a semi-autonomous system, having previously been very slow to move.

A third project saw Boart Longyear combine a surface coring drill rig and rod loader (LF160 and FL262 Freedom Loader) into a single entity.

This solution implemented the same DCi control system that had seen success at Olympic Dam, and allows for simultaneous control of both the LF160 drill rig and FL262 rod handler. The FL262 is also compatible with Boart Longyear’s newer LF350e surface coring rig, currently the company’s deepest capacity coring drill, with the ability to dig to a depth of 3360 metres.

All of these ambitious projects were made possible — or at least, far more manageable — through the solid communication and integration of several international teams.

Boart Longyear uses an atypical research and development business model that combines professional drilling services with in-house drilling technology design as an original equipment manufacturer (OEM).

Two divisions within the company, Boart Longyear Drilling Services and Boart Longyear Drilling Products, compound this approach with a relationship that sees the company’s engineers and drillers working symbiotically to the benefit of polish and optimisation of products.

“This partnership between Boart Longyear engineers and Drilling Services benefits everyone in the industry as many of the solutions developed are also considered for commercialisation,” says Drivdahl.

Boart Longyear’s Drilling Services team tests equipment and passes on comments regarding technical issues or suggestions for improvements to engineers, who then research, design, and develop solutions in response

Solutions are also suggested by engineering on new technologies, sometimes for problems that the Drilling Services team may not be aware of. Engineered solutions are tested and tweaked by Boart Longyear manufacturing team and then implemented by Drilling Services.

“Boart Longyear Drilling Services uses the highest quality, safest and most innovative equipment and tooling available, developed by Boart Longyear Drilling Products,” says Drivdahl.

Boart Longyear engineers hold a wide variety of responsibilities. Some are focused on safety solutions, while others focus on product commercialisation in tandem with the productivity-focused Drilling Products division.

The Drilling Services and Drilling Products engineers both report to the vice president of engineering, so they work very closely – sometimes in the same building.

There are engineers located in different regions as well as engineers dedicated to different specialties so that subject matter experts and synergies can be leveraged across divisions for maximum potential.

“As a result of the unique Boart Longyear business model and the collaboration with Drilling Services, Drilling Products customers know they’re using thoroughly tested equipment and tooling,” concludes Drivdahl.