Exploration drilling costs down to $50 per metre

Mineral exploration could be done at a fraction of the cost thanks to researchers at Curtin University who have developed a new coiled tube drilling rig.

Project leader Professor Brian Evans (Department of Petroleum Engineering) said the new rig can drill boreholes at a cost of $50 per metre, and reduces rig staff from six to two people.

“Coiled tube drilling rigs have been used in the oil and gas industry for the last 40 years to clean up existing boreholes and they are quick because they are continuously drilling – they don’t need rod changes,” Evans said.

“We are adapting these coiled tube drilling rigs to be used for hard-rock mineral drilling by replacing the steel drill pipe with flexible coiled tubing, and working on embedding sensors and electronic chips in the composite laminate tube, so logging can be done in real time.

“We’ve also decreased the borehole size, because by drilling continuously with small, low-cost impregnated diamond bits and increasing the speed, we are hoping to increase the rate of penetration substantially.”

The prototype rig was demonstrated at the Brukunga Drilling Research and Training facility in the Adelaide Hills last week.

Developed in partnership with the CSIRO, University of Adelaide and the Deep Exploration Technologies Cooperative research Centre (DETCRC), the project aims to increase drilling speed from 50rpm to 7000rpm.

Last year the prototype of the world's first coiled tubing drill rig (CT Rig) for exploration was launched at the Brukunga site.