After crazy pre-Christmas and New Year days when we were losing our voices due to dozens of phone calls and when we barely managed to pack parcels with sondes, after a long New Year’s weekend, which, by the way, was also filled with work, but it was research, it’s time to take stock.
From the very beginning of 2018 we kept receiving inquiries for powerful deep work sondes. It is interesting that these requests came from the customers who used drill heads for standard sondes and for elongated sondes (the so-called «downhole» sondes). Some literally lacked 2-3 meters of the working depth of a standard sonde to pass the route under existing communications (as, for example, in Moscow), others lacked 3-4 meters of the maximum working distance of the «downhole» sonde to lay an engineering well under the river (as it was in Omsk) or under the existing tunnel (as it was in Moscow).
Meeting requirements our dear customers, we have developed, tested and put into production the line of heavy-duty sondes for almost all types of location systems.
Of course, current consumption of the sondes increased significantly, normal alkaline batteries were already not enough. Then came the «moment of glory» of our TWIN lithium batteries, which have established themselves as powerful, unpretentious (working in heavy soils and in punch drill units) and parameter-stable power supplies for the sondes.
Our sondes with increased power have proven themselves in many serious and difficult projects throughout Russia and Kazakhstan. But these were the sondes, as it were, for one, though, very important project for the customer. Their use in standard work caused customers’ dissatisfaction with the rapid discharge of batteries. We made a decision not to overlay our dear customers with unnecessary expenses for the purchase of unique «extra-downhole» sondes, but simply to lease these sondes for individual projects.
The idea of creating universal sondes with different capacities for different projects lingered in our minds. And already at the beginning of 2018 we made the first samples of sondes with switchable power. By summer field tests were carried out and their production was established. The main «trick» of such sondes was that the main mode of their operation was the standard mode (that is, when installing batteries, they were always low-power with a standard power level). If you do not know the features of the sonde, it will always be a standard one, but at any time before installing it in the drill head using simple manipulations, you can turn it into a downhole one (with increased current consumption, of course). After the project is completed, with any battery replacement procedure, it becomes a standard again. Such sondes are marked with the additional suffix «SwP» (Switchable Power). In high power mode, the use of SuperCell or TWIN lithium batteries is required, of course. It is better to use TWIN batteries as they are designed for higher operating currents.
For many years in a row, we received requests of our customers to come up with something to replace unreliable alkaline batteries for sondes. A small explanation of relevance of this task is that most alkaline elements do not tolerate vibration and shock. Even the branded elements purchased in different places differ both in capacity and vibration resistance.
In Kazakhstan, in Petropavlovsk region, in one of the projects they went over seven types of batteries including ENERGIZER and GP but any kit «died» after 20-40 meters of puncture. Though, after an hour of «rest» the batteries again showed the full charge. This is the main sign of unsuitability of batteries to be used in HDD. The TWIN lithium battery worked for more than a week in the same place.
Even earlier there were cases of using batteries to power sondes. But common Ni-MH cells have an operating voltage of 1.2 Volts per cell and low capacity. It is more attractive to use modern lithium cells.
We have developed a battery kit for sondes which includes two CC-size lithium batteries — a universal charger and a device for monitoring the energy stored in the battery. The problem of using lithium batteries is the need to protect them not only from overcharging (which is a function of the charger) but also from excessive discharge. Deep discharge leads to degradation of the battery structure, gas emission and severe loss of capacity.
The first generation of TWIN-A batteries was built according to the standard scheme with protection installation from the negative output side. But during the trial operation one common drawback was revealed: when moisture (drilling fluid) got into the battery compartment, the protective device closed and there followed a deep discharge of the battery, and after a small number of cycles, it completely failed without recovery. It should be noted that the minimum allowable voltage on lithium batteries is 2.5-2.7 Volts, that is, the locator will show an almost full charge of the sonde’s batteries, but in fact, it’s time to recharge them.
Another cause for modernization of TWIN-A batteries was the cessation of C-size elements production that we used in our structure. After a long search and testing, an almost equivalent replacement was found. If the old version with one full charge allowed Izhevsk customers to perform a kilometer puncture (1000 meters!), then with the new version in the same conditions eight hundred meters can be expected for puncture. And the price of the kit will be less due to the direct contract with the manufacturer of lithium cells. This is with a total number of charge-discharge cycles being of more than one thousand! Mass production will be established after a cycle of full-scale testing of new batteries which have a more reliable design and are not afraid of both the effects of the drilling fluid and short circuit.
The year of 2018 turned out to be fruitful for new products. In addition to sondes for the most best-selling location systems, a range of sondes for location systems of RADIODETECTION family was developed — for RD-385, DrillTrack and iTrack locators. The RDD-type sonde is designed for old location systems like RD-385 and it operates at 8 kHz and 33 kHz, the RDDi sonde is more versatile and works with all three types of locations at two frequencies of 8 kHz or 33 kHz. The development and testing of the RDDi-SwP sonde is nearing completion.
RDD SWP switchable power sonde for RD-385, DrillTrack and iTrack location.
Great attention is paid to the commercially available 88BG sonde for SubSite 750/752 and TKq locations. A small high-precision sondee (0.1%) allows you to lay stormwater and sewers using even the smallest puncture machines.
88BG sonde for DitchWitch SubSite 750/752 location.
There is always room for perfection! We try to do our best to be flexible towards our customers’ requests. We wish to have available sondes for every whim of our customers, so they could meet the highest reliability criteria.
Surely, there are sondes failures within the working process. Having established a warranty period of 180 days, we quite thoughtlessly replace the sondes on the warranty even after 200 days of operation. Trust of our customers is important to us. All the failed sondes are returned to us for a thorough analysis.
There are really defective sondes due to the failure of internal electronic elements but there are also completely working ones with full compliance of parameters that they had during the output control at our facility. And even in this case, we contact the customer to determine the operating conditions. The source of the malfunction is often either the batteries, or active / passive interference, or insufficient operators’ training. However, all comments are collected and analyzed to provide useful recommendations.
We carefully analyze and correct our faults both by improving the technology and using new, more reliable electronic components. For example, the problem of maintaining high accuracy of the main classes of sondes in a wider temperature range has been solved.
In 2018 we not only invented the new products but also were engaged in research developing methods for improving the accuracy of drilling operations or solving complex pilot drilling tasks in severe interference conditions.
The results of these studies were reported to our customers in the form of a journal article, as a report at the NO-DIG 2018 conference and a presentation at a training seminar of HDD operators in Kazan. Nowadays several dozen customers inform us about the successful application of our techniques in their work emphasizing the importance of recommendations in pilot drilling. But at first there was a complete rejection of these techniques before their first practical test.
After reporting at International Association of Horizontal Directional Drilling Specialists , Alexander Nagovitsyn presented our new product: a set of lithium batteries for sondes which caused great interest among the entire audience.
Moreover, a conference and a training seminar were held within the framework of the educational programs at International Association of Horizontal Directional Drilling Specialists in Kazan in February 2019, where I presented the latest results in our developments including new methods of HDD navigation in difficult conditions.
With good reason I smoothly switched to 2019. After all, there are no boundaries in the creative process. We have plans for new sondes, new products, and new countries. While our brains work, we will more than once please our customers with our products and our service. Let me tell you, we won’t leave you in trouble, for YOUR SUCCESS IS OUR PRIORITY.