Researchers at Curtin University have developed a new coiled tube drilling rig to help carry out mineral exploration at a fraction of the cost.
The project is said to be a partnership with CSIRO, The University of Adelaide and various mining and service companies through the Deep Exploration Technologies Cooperative Research Centre (DETCRC).
In addition to increasing the drilling speed for mineral exploration from 50rev/min to 7,000rev/min, the project also aims to reduce costs and improve health and safety.
Department of Petroleum engineering professor Brian Evans said: "Coiled tube drilling rigs have been used in the oil and gas industry for the last 40 years to clean-up existing boreholes and they are quick because they are continuously drilling; they don't need rod changes.
"We are adapting these coiled tube drilling rigs to be used for hard-rock mineral drilling by replacing the steel drill pipe with flexible coiled tubing and working on embedding sensors and electronic chips in the composite laminate tube, so logging can be done in real-time."
The borehole size has also been decreased as, by drilling continuously with small, low-cost impregnated diamond bits and increasing the speed, the company hopes to significantly increase the rate of penetration.
Further testing is planned prior to making the drill commercially viable for industry use, further testing is planned.
Image: The coiled tube drill rig. Photo: courtesy of Curtin University.