Prototype rig promises big changes for greenfields drilling

A prototype, coiled tubing (CT) drill rig being developed by a research centre in Victoria has entered its second major field trial, promising cheaper, faster greenfields mineral exploration.

The project, led by government-backed research and development (R&D) house Deep Exploration Technologies Cooperative Research Centre (DET CRC), is designed primarily to improve upon traditional drill rod-based drilling methods.

Its lack of rod handling and the improved durability of the coil drill string is intended to improve hole stability, the speed of drilling (up to 30m per minute), weight (15 tonnes), and cost ($50 per metre to a depth of 500 metres).

The second trial, drilling into unconsolidated cover in the Murray Basin near Horsham, Victoria, has been cited as more difficult than the first, a hard rock drill test that took place in Port Augusta, South Australia.

DET CRC chief executive Richard Hillis praised the test as a success.

“We don’t believe that the unconsolidated cover at Horsham could have been drilled by the traditional reverse circulation method, meaning the CT Rig provides the only cost-effective alternative to expensive sonic or mud rotary surface and diamond-tailed holes,” he explained.

The trials are the latest stage in the DET CRC’s $20 million project, dubbed the RoXplorer, which is up for potential licensing and commercialisation in late 2017.