Title:
REMOTE DRILL FLUID SUPPLY SYSTEM AND METHOD
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A drill fluid supply device includes a drill fluid container. A pump is fluidly coupled to the drill fluid container. The pump configured to move drill fluid from within the container. A drill fluid supply receiver is configured to receive wireless signals to control at least the pump.



Inventors:
Olander, John A. (Aurora, IL, US)
Application Number:
11/622598
Publication Date:
07/17/2008
Filing Date:
01/12/2007
Assignee:
TT Technologies, Inc.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E21B21/08
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
HARCOURT, BRAD
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
SCHWEGMAN LUNDBERG & WOESSNER, P.A. (MINNEAPOLIS, MN, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A drill fluid supply device, comprising: a drill fluid container; a pump fluidly coupled to the drill fluid container, the pump configured to move drill fluid from within the container; and a drill fluid supply receiver configured to receive wireless signals to control at least the pump.

2. The drill fluid supply device of claim 1, further comprising a drill fluid supply processor electrically connected to the drill fluid supply receiver and the pump, the drill fluid supply processor configured to process the wireless signals received by the drill fluid supply receiver and send a control signal to the pump.

3. The drill fluid supply device of claim 2, wherein the wireless signals are sent by a drill transmitter of a drill device.

4. The drill fluid supply device of claim 2, further comprising a drill fluid supply transmitter for transmitting wireless signals to a drill device.

5. The drill fluid supply device of claim 4, wherein the drill fluid supply receiver and the drill fluid supply transmitter are combined to form a drill fluid supply transceiver.

6. The drill fluid supply device of claim 4, wherein the drill device further includes a drill receiver for receiving wireless control signals from the drill fluid supply transmitter.

7. The drill fluid supply device of claim 6, wherein the drill device further includes a drill processor electrically connected to the drill receiver, the drill processor configured to process the wireless signals received by the drill receiver and send a control signal to the drill device.

8. The drill fluid supply device of claim 6, further comprising a drill fluid supply transmitter for transmitting wireless signals to the drill device.

9. The drill fluid supply device of claim 8, wherein the drill receiver and the drill transmitter are combined to form a drill transceiver.

10. The drill fluid supply device of claim 1, wherein the pump moves the drill fluid to a drill device.

11. The drill fluid supply device of claim 1, further comprising a drill fluid supply interface configured to send wireless signals to a drill receiver to control a drill device.

12. A drilling apparatus, comprising: a drill device; a drill fluid supply device spaced from and fluidly coupled to the drill device; a drill transmitter coupled to the drill device; a drill fluid supply receiver coupled to the drill fluid supply device and configured to receive wireless drill fluid supply control signals sent by the drill transmitter; a drill fluid supply transmitter coupled to the drill fluid supply device; a drill receiver coupled to the drill device and configured to receive wireless drill control signals sent by the drill fluid supply transmitter; and a drill fluid supply processor electrically connected to the drill fluid supply receiver and configured to process the drill fluid supply control signals and control operation of the drill fluid supply device in response to the drill fluid supply control signals.

13. The drilling apparatus of claim 12, wherein the drill device includes a drill interface.

14. The drilling apparatus of claim 12, wherein the drill fluid supply device includes a drill fluid supply interface.

15. The drilling apparatus of claim 12, wherein the drill device includes a drill head having a drill fluid outlet.

16. The drilling apparatus of claim 12, wherein the drill fluid supply device includes a container, a pump, and a mixer.

17. The drilling apparatus of claim 12, wherein the drill fluid supply processor controls at least one of a pump and a mixer of the drill fluid supply device.

18. A method of operating a wirelessly controlled drill fluid supply device, comprising: positioning a drill fluid supply device spaced from a drill device; sending a wireless signal from a drill transmitter coupled to the drill device; receiving the wireless signal at the drill fluid supply device; and processing the wireless signal to create a control signal for controlling the drill fluid supply device.

19. The method of claim 18, further comprising: sending a wireless signal from a drill fluid supply transmitter remote from the drill device; receiving the wireless signal at the drill device; and processing the wireless signal to create a control signal for controlling the drill device.

20. The method of claim 18, wherein a drill fluid flow rate is controlled.

21. The method of claim 18, wherein a drill fluid pressure is controlled.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD

This invention relates to ground drilling equipment. Specifically, this invention relates to a remotely-controlled drill fluid supply system.

BACKGROUND

Directional drilling is a useful technique for several procedures such as utility installation, etc. One common type of directional drilling is horizontal directional drilling, where a drill stem of a drill device is extended essentially horizontally to form passages under structures such as roads for example.

Drilling fluids, such as bentonite fluid, are often used during directional drilling to lubricate the drill hole, help break up the medium being drilled, flush debris from within the drill hole, etc. Typically, such drilling fluids are pumped through a conduit from a drill fluid supply device to a drill head, from which the drilling fluids are discharged into the drill hole. A conductor cable typically runs between the drill fluid supply device and the drill device to enable a user at the drill device to control at least some aspects of the drill fluid supply device, such as whether drilling fluid is being supplied to the drill head, for instance.

The use of such a conductor cable to link the drill fluid supply device with the drill device has several drawbacks. For instance, a conductor cable is prone to mechanical failure due to the constant threat of jostling, kicking, stretching, crushing, cutting, etc. present at a drilling work site. Additionally, exposure to the elements and drilling fluids, contaminants, and other such potentially corrosive materials, increases the likelihood of electrical/mechanical failure of the conductor cable, by creating a short in the conductor cable, corroding portions of the conductor cable, etc. Moreover, the spacing between the drill fluid supply device and the drill device is limited, at least in part, by the length of the conductor cable. Also, the amount of drill fluid supply device control is limited by the size (i.e., the width or diameter) of the conductor cable. Typically, the more control desired at the drill device, the larger the conductor cable. Generally, a conductor cable capable of providing the connection for a full range of control is too large to be practical in field use.

What is needed is a drill fluid supply system that is less susceptible to at least some of the hazards of the drilling environment, while at the same time providing for an increased amount of control of the drill fluid supply device and a greater amount of spacing between the drill device and the drill fluid supply device, if desired, while maintaining practicality of the drill fluid supply device in the field.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 shows a drilling apparatus according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 2 shows a drill device according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 3 shows a drill interface according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 4 shows views of a drill fluid supply device according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 5a is a block diagram of a drilling apparatus according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 5b is a block diagram of a drilling apparatus according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 6 is an enlarged fragmentary view of a drill head of the drilling apparatus of FIG. 1.

FIG. 7 is a block diagram of a method of operating a wirelessly controlled drill fluid supply device.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

In the following detailed description, reference is made to the accompanying drawings which form a part hereof, and in which is shown, by way of illustration, specific embodiments in which the invention may be practiced. In the drawings, like numerals describe substantially similar components throughout the several views. These embodiments are described in sufficient detail to enable those skilled in the art to practice the invention. Other embodiments may be utilized and structural, or logical changes, etc. may be made without departing from the scope of the present invention. In the following descriptions, a drill stem is defined to include any component that is advanced from a drilling device. A drill rod is defined as a section of pipe, solid material, etc. where sections of drill rod are coupled together to form a main part of a drill stem. Various drill stem components such as a drilling blade holder, a sonde housing, etc. can be attached to the front end of a number of drill rods during one embodiment of a typical drilling operation.

Referring to FIGS. 1, 2, and 6, there is shown a drilling apparatus 100 including a drill device or rig 70 and a drill fluid supply device 10. The drill rig 70 typically includes a plurality of drill rods 74 for forming a drill stem 71 to perform a drilling operation. Although an example of a directional drill device 70 is used in the following descriptions and is shown in the attached figures, other ground drills utilizing a number of sections of drill stem are also contemplated to be within the scope of the invention.

Referring specifically to FIGS. 2 and 6, a drill head 72 is disposed at the front of the drill stem 71 and includes a cutting blade thereon. The drill stem 71 typically includes a passage (not shown) therethrough for conducting drill fluid (not shown) to the drill head 72. The drill head 72 includes a drill fluid outlet 72a (see FIG. 6) for discharging drill fluid within a drill hole for lubrication, debris removal purposes, and the like.

Referring now to FIG. 2, the drill device 70 is shown on a track system 76 for positioning the drill device 70. Although a track system 76 is shown, other systems are also possible for use in positioning the drill device 70. Wheeled systems, or combinations of tracked and wheeled systems are examples of acceptable positioning systems. Although a positioning system is shown in the embodiment of FIG. 2, the invention is not so limited. Embodiments without a positioning system are also possible.

Referring to FIGS. 1-3, one example of the drill device 70 includes an operator seat 77 having a drill interface 90 disposed proximate thereto. The drill interface 90 of this example includes a plurality of controls to allow an operator to control at least some aspects of the operation of the drilling apparatus 100. In one example, the drill device 70 further includes a drill control unit 80, which will be described in greater detail below. While a seat is shown in the embodiment of FIGS. 1 and 2, the invention is not so limited. Embodiments without a seat are also possible.

Referring now to FIGS. 1 and 4, one example of the drill fluid supply device 10 of the present invention includes a frame or platform 11 on which the below-described components of the drill fluid supply device 10 are mounted. The components include a drill fluid container or tank 12 for containing drill fluid used for a drilling operation. The drill fluid is mixed within the tank 12 by a mixing pump or mixer 16. A high pressure pump or drill fluid pump 14 is fluidly coupled to the tank 12 to conduct drill fluid from the tank 12 to the drill device 70, specifically, the drill stem 71. A drill fluid filter 20 is included with the drill fluid supply device 10 to remove at least some of contaminants and/or oversized particulates from the drill fluid. In one example, a hose 24 is used to fluidly couple the drill fluid supply device 10 and the drill device 70, and, more specifically, the tank 12 and the drill stem 71. The hose 24, in one example, is stored on a reel 26 and is reeled out to connect an end of the hose 24 to the drill device 70, located remotely from the drill fluid supply device 10. The drill fluid supply device 10 further includes a container 18 for holding clean water or antifreeze. An engine 22 is included to provide power to the drill fluid supply device 10. The engine 22 in one example is a diesel engine, although it is within the spirit and scope of the present invention that the drill fluid supply device 10 is powered differently. For instance, a different type of combustion engine could be used with the drill fluid supply device 10, or, alternatively, the drill fluid supply device 10 could be electrically powered by a battery, a separate, stand-alone generator, or the local power grid (i.e., plugged into an electrical outlet).

In one example, the drill fluid supply device 10 includes a drill fluid supply control unit 30, as will be described in more detail below. In one example, the control unit 30 includes a drill fluid supply interface 40 including user controls for controlling at least some aspects of the operation of the drilling apparatus 100.

Referring to FIG. 5a, in one example, a wireless control system for the drilling apparatus 100 includes the drill fluid supply control unit 30 and the drill control unit 80. The drill fluid supply control unit 30 includes a receiver 32, a transmitter 34, a processor 36, and the drill fluid supply interface 40. In one example, the receiver 32 and the transmitter 34 are combined in a transceiver 31, although this configuration is not intended to be limiting. The transmitter 34 is configured to send wireless signals 38 to the drill device 70, and the receiver 32 is configured to receive wireless signals 88 from the drill device 70. The processor 36 is configured to process the wireless signals 88 received and create appropriate control signals for controlling particular aspects of the operation of the drill fluid supply device 10. The processor 36 in one example is further configured to direct the transmitter 34 to send the wireless signals 38 corresponding to input from the user using the drill fluid supply interface 40. In another example, the processor 36 is configured to process control signals directly from the drill fluid supply interface 40 to allow a user at the drill fluid supply device 10 to control particular aspects of the operation of the drill fluid supply device 10.

In one example, the drill control unit 80 includes a receiver 82, a transmitter 84, a processor 86, and the drill interface 90. In one example, the receiver 82 and the transmitter 84 are combined in a transceiver 81, although this configuration is not intended to be limiting. The transmitter 84 is configured to send wireless signals 88 to the drill fluid supply device 10, and the receiver 82 is configured to receive wireless signals 38 from the drill fluid supply device 10. The processor 86 is configured to process the wireless signals 38 received and create appropriate control signals for controlling particular aspects of the operation of the drill device 70. The processor 86 in one example is further configured to direct the transmitter 84 to send the wireless signals 88 corresponding to input from the user using the drill interface 90. In another example, the processor 86 is configured to process control signals directly from the drill interface 90 to allow a user at the drill device 70 to control particular aspects of the operation of the drill device 10.

In this way, the drill interface 90 can be used to control various aspects of the operation of the drill device 70 and/or the drill fluid supply device 10, and the drill fluid supply interface 40 can be used to control various aspects of the operation of the drill fluid supply device 10 and/or the drill device 70. The aspects of operation controllable are discussed in more detail below.

The wireless signals 38, 88 can be of any appropriate type for relaying information between the drill device 70 and the drill fluid supply device 10. The wireless signals 38, 88 can be one or a combination of continuous signals, pulsed signals, and one-directional signals. In one example, the type of the wireless signals 38, 88 varies according to operator inputs and selected functions. Signal strength and frequency are not limited herein, although it is noted that such parameters are generally constrained and/or limited by Federal Communications Commission (FCC) guidelines and appropriate licensing. It is contemplated that the signal strength and frequency is capable of being varied to enable adjustment thereof, for instance, if spacing between the drill device 70 and the drill fluid supply device 10 or environmental factors, such as noise, terrain, or the like cause communication problems between the drill device 70 and the drill fluid supply device 10.

Referring now to FIG. 5b, the wireless control system for the drilling apparatus 100 is similar to the wireless control system shown in FIG. 5a, but differs at least in that it includes an optional repeater/relay station 60. While only one repeater/relay station 60 is shown, it is within the spirit and scope of the present invention that more than one repeater/relay station 60 is used with the wireless control system for the drilling apparatus 100. The repeater/relay station 60 aids in transmitting the wireless signals 38, 88 between the drill device 70 and the drill fluid supply device 10. If communication is lost between the drill device 70 and the drill fluid supply device 10, a shutdown of the boring operation could result. One or more repeater/relay stations 60 can be used with the wireless control system to improve communication between the drill device 70 and the drill fluid supply device 10, for instance, when signal interference is relatively high and/or when a distance between the drill device 70 and the drill fluid supply device 10 is relatively long. In one example, where the drill device 70 and the drill fluid supply device 10 are separated by building construction, trees, or the like, one or more repeater/relay stations 60 can be positioned to relay the wireless signals 38, 88 between the drill device 70 and the drill fluid supply device 10. In another example, the one or more repeater/relay stations 60 are positioned to be in direct line of site to both the drill device 70 and the drill fluid supply device 10. In yet another example, the one or more repeater/relay stations 60 are placed along the distance between the drill device 70 and the drill fluid supply device 10 to reduce the distance the wireless signals 38, 88 need to travel in a single span, thereby increasing the effectiveness of the wireless signals 38, 88.

As stated above, various aspects of the operation of the drill fluid supply device 10 and the drill device 70 can be controlled from one or both of the user interfaces 40, 90. The following lists include at least some aspects controllable wirelessly. It is noted that the wireless control of additional aspects of operation for either the drill device 70 of the drill fluid supply device 10, which are not listed below, is contemplated in the present invention.

Aspects of operation controllable from the drill device 70 include, but are not limited to:

    • 1. Start the drill fluid pump engine.
    • 2. Stop the drill fluid pump engine.
    • 3. Start the mixing engine.
    • 4. Stop the mixing engine.
    • 5. Start the drill fluid pump 14.
    • 6. Stop the drill fluid pump 14.
    • 7. Stop the supply of drill fluid to the drill device 70.
    • 8. Start the supply of drill fluid to the drill device 70.
    • 9. Increase the volume of drill fluid supplied to the drill device 70.
    • 10. Decrease the volume of drill fluid supplied to the drill device 70.
    • 11. Increase the maximum pressure of drill fluid supplied to the drill device 70.
    • 12. Decrease the maximum pressure of drill fluid supplied to the drill device 70.
    • 13. Start the mixing pump 16.
    • 14. Stop the mixing pump 16.
    • 15. Increase the volume of the mixing pump 16.
    • 16. Decrease the volume of the mixing pump 16.
    • 17. Increase the drill fluid concentration.
    • 18. Decrease the drill fluid concentration.
    • 19. “Lock” the drill fluid supply device 10 so as to be controlled only from the drill device 70.
    • 20. “Unlock” the drill fluid supply device 10 so drill fluid controls may be done other than from the drill device 10.
    • 21. “Lock” the drill fluid supply device 10 so as to be shut down (stopped).
    • 22. “Unlock the drill fluid supply device 10 so it can be operated.

It is noted that the above list is in no particular order. It is further noted that at least some, if not all, of the above-listed controllable aspects can be operated in an automatic fashion dependent upon parameters the user inputs into the drill processor 86 using either the drill fluid supply interface 40 or the drill interface 90. For instance, the user could run the drilling apparatus 100 in an automatic mode, the drill fluid supplied to the drill stem 71 could be cut off automatically whenever an additional drill rod 74 is added to or removed from the drill stem 71. Alternatively, the user could run the drilling apparatus 100 in a manual mode, in which the drill fluid would have to manually shut down and restarted when adding additional drill rods 74 to the drill stem 71. The above example is intended for illustrative purposes only and is not intended to be limiting. As such, it is within the spirit and scope of the present invention that various other aspects of the operation of the drill fluid supply device 10 be controllable in either automatic or manual modes.

Aspects of operation controllable from the drill fluid supply device 10 include, but are not limited to:

    • 1. Stop the drill engine.
    • 2. Stop the supply of drill fluid to the drill device 70.
    • 3. Notify the drill operator regarding a lack of drill fluid supply (volume being supplied to the drill device 70).
    • 4. Notify the drill operator regarding a lack of drill fluid supply (available drill fluid in tank 12).
    • 5. Notify the drill operator regarding a failure on drill fluid supply device 10, (examples are fluid levels, overheat condition, overpressure condition, and the like).
    • 6. Engage “drill head lockout” device.

It is noted that the above list is in no particular order. It is further noted that, in a manner similar to that described above, at least some, if not all, of the above-listed controllable aspects can be operated in an automatic fashion dependent upon parameters the user inputs into the drill fluid supply processor 36 using either the drill fluid supply interface 40 or the drill interface 90.

Referring to FIG. 7, in another example, a method 110 of operating a wirelessly controlled drill fluid supply device 10 includes a step 120 of positioning a drill fluid supply device 10 spaced from a drill device 70. It is contemplated that the drill fluid supply device 10 can be spaced any distance from the drill device 70, although, in one example, the drill fluid supply device 10 is spaced within approximately 300 feet from the drill device 70. Advantageously, the drill device 70 is anchored in a location in which a drilling operation is desired and the drill fluid supply device 10 is positioned close to a road or in another relatively easily accessible area. The method 110 further includes a step 130 of sending a wireless signal 88 from a drill transmitter 84 coupled to the drill device 70. Step 140 of the method 110 includes receiving the wireless signal 88 at the drill fluid supply device 10. The method 110 further includes a step 150 of processing the wireless signal 88 to create a control signal for controlling the drill fluid supply device 10. In one example, the step 150 includes a step 190 wherein a drill fluid flow rate is controlled. In another example, the step 150 includes a step 200 wherein a drill fluid pressure is controlled. It is contemplated that further aspects of operation of the drill fluid supply device 10 including, but not limited to, the list of aspects above, can also be controlled in the method 110.

In one example, the method 110 further includes a step 160 of sending a wireless signal 38 from a drill fluid supply transmitter 34 remote from the drill device 70. Step 170 of the method 110 includes receiving the wireless signal 38 at the drill device 70. The method 110 further includes a step 180 of processing the wireless signal 38 to create a control signal for controlling the drill device 70. It is contemplated that further aspects of operation of the drill device 70 including, but not limited to, the list of aspects above, can also be controlled in the method 110.

In this way, the wirelessly controlled drill fluid supply device 10 is less susceptible to at least some of the hazards of the drilling environment, while at the same time providing for an increased amount of control of the drill fluid supply device 10 and a greater amount of spacing between the drill device 70 and the drill fluid supply device 10, if desired, while maintaining practicality of the drill fluid supply device 10 in the field. The wireless control eliminates the need for a control cable on the ground between the drill fluid supply device 10 and the drill device 70, thereby eliminating the possibility of the cable being damaged, for instance, by workers driving or walking over the cable; equipment or debris falling on the cable; water, solvents, or other fluids corroding the cable, etc. Additionally, the wireless control of the present invention allows for a greater number of aspects of operation of the drill fluid supply device 10 to be controlled from the drill device 70 (and vice versa). When using a control cable between the drill fluid supply device 10 and the drill device 70, the diametrical size of the cable necessarily had to be increased as the number of aspects wished to be controlled were increased. At a certain point, the cable would become to large to be used practically in a drilling operation. The wireless system eliminates this obstacle by allowing any number of aspects to be controlled. Also, the wireless system of the present invention allows the drill fluid supply device 10 and the drill device 70 to be spaced apart, for instance, 300 feet apart without requiring a reel having 300 feet of cable thereon. The wireless system of the present invention allows the drill fluid supply device 10 to be placed, for instance, along side of a road or in another relatively easily accessible area spaced from the area in which the drill device 70 is anchored for performing a drilling operation without the necessity of running a potentially bulky and awkward control cable therebetween. While it is true that a hose 24 generally must still be reeled out from the drill fluid supply device 10 in order to fluidly connect the drill fluid supply device 10 with the drill device 70 in order to perform a drilling operation, the wireless system described herein eliminates the further need to reel out a control cable to electrically couple the drill fluid supply device 10 and the drill device 70, thereby saving time on the job site and, in turn, saving money.

While a number of advantages of embodiments described herein are listed above, the list is not exhaustive. Other advantages of embodiments described above will be apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art, having read the present disclosure. Although specific embodiments have been illustrated and described herein, it will be appreciated by those of ordinary skill in the art that any arrangement which is calculated to achieve the same purpose may be substituted for the specific embodiment shown. This application is intended to cover any adaptations or variations of the present invention. It is to be understood that the above description is intended to be illustrative, and not restrictive. Combinations of the above embodiments, and other embodiments will be apparent to those of skill in the art upon reviewing the above description. The scope of the invention includes any other applications in which the above structures and fabrication methods are used. The scope of the invention should be determined with reference to the appended claims, along with the full scope of equivalents to which such claims are entitled.