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Sonic Drilling

How sonic drilling works

Sonic is an advanced form of drilling which employs the use of high-frequency, resonant energy generated inside the Sonic head to advance a core barrel or casing into subsurface formations. During drilling, the resonant energy is transferred down the drill string to the bit face at various Sonic frequencies. Simultaneously rotating the drill string evenly distributes the energy and impact at the bit face.

The resonant energy is generated inside the Sonic head by two counter-rotating weights. A pneumatic resonator system inside the Sonic head amplifies the resonant energy from transmitting to the drill string and preferentially directs the energy down the drill string.

The driller controls the resonant energy matching the Sonic head’s oscillator to achieve maximum drilling productivity. When the resonant Sonic energy coincides with the resonant frequency of the drill string, resonance maximizes the Sonic energy amplitude of natural frequency delivered to the face. At the same time, vibration of the sonic energy adjacent to the entire drill string is substantially minimized, resulting in fast penetration rates.

Sonic Oscillator Diagram

Sonic drilling procedure

While there are several ways to drill using Sonic (depending upon site-specific conditions and project objectives), the most common means involves advancing a core barrel, which is overridden by a larger diameter drill string that cases the open borehole and prevents collapse.

Step 1

Core Barrel Advancement

The core barrel is advanced using sonic frequencies. When necessary this step can be performed using no fluids, air, or mud.

Step 2

Casing Override

After the core barrel is in place, casing is sonically advanced over the core barrel, protecting the bore hole’s integrity in loose unconsolidated ground.

Step 3

Core Retrieval

The core barrel is retrieved, producing a relatively undisturbed sample with near 100% core recovery.

Step 4

Repeat Core Advancement

Steps 1 to 3 are repeated to depth, producing a continuous core sample through unconsolidated formations with less than 1% deviation.