What is exploration drilling, and why are these methods so important to the mining, oil and gas industries?
This type of drilling is essentially a means of discovery. Specialists drill down into the earth and gather data on what is down there. For example, they may probe an ore deposit and extract a sample so that its content can be analysed. Alternatively, they might use drilling to explore and assess a yet untapped site to learn more about the potential value of a larger drilling or mining operation.
Different methods and types of exploration drilling can be deployed here. Teams may adopt a core drilling, rotary drilling, or percussive drilling approach and will adjust the parameters of the operation according to drilling depth, geological setting, and project-specific objectives.
All of this gives us a handy overview of what exploration drilling means in an industrial setting. Let’s dive a little deeper and discover more.
What Is Exploration Drilling?
Exploration drilling teams “explore” and discover information about a site by drilling down into it and assessing the composition and state of what they find. Depending on the methods used, exploration drilling may gauge how accessible mineral deposits are and may be able to give teams valuable data on hydrological and geological conditions beneath the earth.
Discovering New Mineral and Hydrocarbon Deposits
Teams may use rotary or percussive drilling to reach deposits that have been identified using ultrasound technology. A core drilling project can then bring materials back to the surface, where they can be analysed.
Assessing Site Viability
The drilling may identify impediments or obstacles between the surface and the materials beneath. They may also illustrate the extent of a deposit and the quality of the minerals contained within. All of this data informs whether or not a site is viable and how a larger-scale drilling project can be enacted.
Types of Exploration Drilling
There are several different types of exploration drilling, utilising different methods to achieve specific aims.
Core drilling uses a circular drill bit composed of an ultra-hard material like industrial diamond. There is an open space within the drill bit, so the bit cuts around a core of material that can be extracted and brought to the surface for analysis. This type of exploration drilling is used once the drill has reached the deposit or material that needs to be assessed.
Rotary drilling utilises a rotating drill bit, which relies on torque – or turning force – to cut through the material. The drill bit may feature a helical moulding, which cuts into the material in a spiral and pushes the bit forward. This type of exploration drilling methodology is used to drill through softer materials, where percussive force is not needed. Once the deposit is reached, the team may switch to core drilling for analysis.
Percussive drilling uses a rotary mechanism, but this is backed up with a lateral movement from behind the drill bit. So, the drill bit will cut through the material with torque or turning force but will also move forward and backward in a percussive movement, essentially “hammering” the material. This type of exploration drilling is typically used for driving through tougher materials to reach deposits ready for examination.
Exploration Drilling Methods Are Critical to the Modern Industrial Landscape
Exploration drilling gives oil, gas and mining teams the insight they need into what is going on below the ground. These methods help teams to find and assess the composition of mineral and ore deposits and the viability of a larger-scale drilling project. By utilising rotary and percussive drilling, teams can drive through a range of materials to reach the deposits they need to find and then switch to a core drilling methodology to extract samples ready for analysis. Over time, these methods are evolving to better meet the requirements of a changing planet and its populace.
Here at Precision Drilling, we have long-standing expertise in exploration drilling and other similar oil, gas and mining services. Not only this, but we maintain a staunch commitment to sustainability, delivering on projects that support our planet and our environment, as well as human energy and resource needs.
Learn more about exploration drilling services from Precision Drilling. Get in touch with our team today.