Breaking with Tradition

March 9th, 2012 | Posted by in T3W

Pennsylvania Drilling Company, Stackhouse & Son, mixes its fleet with a TH60.


Dave Stackhouse, the son in Stackhouse & Son, Inc., has been a T3W user since the mid-90s. Recently Stackhouse broke from tradition, purchasing an Atlas Copco TH60 drill rig to go with his two-year-old T3W. “I’m happy with one of each,” he said. The new rig he purchased has a few different options, giving him added flexibility on the job site.

“We had Atlas Copco mount a hydraulic welder to the rig to give us welding capability when we couldn’t get the tender truck close enough,” said Stackhouse. “This is a great add-on that I would recommend to anyone because you don’t need extra length on the leads.”

Having enough working room was also a reason Stackhouse went with 3 ½-inch pipe. All previous rigs he has run with 4 ½-inch drill pipe, but he decided to try the smaller diameter pipe, which allows him to have 600 feet of on-board pipe versus 400 feet.

“Having smaller pipe gives us 200 feet more depth in the box and carousel. Sometimes it’s hard to get extra pipe into the tight drill site.” With the 3 ½-inch you get nine versus seven drill rods in the carousel for faster drilling.

The shallow wells can be drilled to depth without pulling a stick from the box. The well produced 15 gpm, which is a good well in this area.

Right from left: Drill Helper Shaun Hummer, Atlas Copco sales rep Dean Woodward, Driller Dave Ortman

For the guy at the controls, driller Dave Ortman was skeptical at first about running 3 ½-inch pipe and has had to adjust his drilling technique. “With the T3W, I torque up the 4 ½-inch drill pipe to 3,500 lb at the top and 1,500 lb at the bottom. The 3 ½-inch can’t take that. I torque to 2,300 at the top and 1,200 at the bottom.”

Ortman is an expert on the T3W rig, with years of experience. The recent conversion to the TH60 has come pretty easily. He said, “I think they drill exactly the same, although I prefer the over-the-road handling and quieter operation on the platform of the TH60.”

There is no lack of power with the TH60, either. The International truck features a 600-hp Cummins that Ortman said has more than enough power for the Pennsylvania mountains. With a grin, Ortman said, “The TH60 goes up the mountains as fast as it goes down.”

Stackhouse agreed with Ortman, saying, “600 hp is a hell of difference from the [older] 380 horsepower engine.”

Stackhouse owned a Cyclone TH60 in the 1980s. “Back then the cotta box (power take off) was an issue…always a problem.” Some called it a “slosh box” because of its loose characteristics. “The Fabco box is a whole lot better,” Stackhouse continued.

“The cooler couldn’t keep up, either, on the Cyclone drill. It was behind the cab and couldn’t get cool air,” he said. Stackhouse purchased his first T3W in 1989. “That was a home run for us. We loved it, especially getting into tight jobs.”

Converting from the T3W to the TH60 was an easy switch for Ortman.

Since the mid-90s, when the company sold its last T4W, the T3W has been their only model. “The T4W is cumbersome and expensive, but great when on a really bad hole…it’s indestructible,” he said. “With the new TH60,” Stackhouse said, “even with the extra 200 feet of pipe, it weighs a thousand pounds less than his T3W.”

Pennsylvania drilling conditions

The formation in this part of Pennsylvania is sandstone and shale with sand and gravel on top. When setting surface casing, Stackhouse said they often have to drive the casing because the hole collapses. The formation is also very unpredictable.

“The rock is often tight and doesn’t give up much water. We may drill 600 feet to get one or two gallons a minute.” Hole depths vary widely because of the mountainous elevations. Valley floors can be less than 200 feet, while mountain wells can go several hundred. Stackhouse likes the auto cable tensioner feature because now they don’t have to tighten the cables. “Before, we were tightening the cables after every other 700- to 800-foot hole.”

For holes deeper than 300 feet, it’s common for the company to hydro-frac the well. “Ninety-five percent of the time, we will increase flow,” said Stackhouse.

Water flow fluctuates greatly in the region. The increase in geothermal projects has given them a better picture of the formation. “Two holes 15 feet apart could be totally different. One will produce 20 gallons per minute and the other is dry. This variation is more frequent than we thought it would be.”

For Stackhouse, the TH60 gives him all the power he needs with the ability to be more versatile. The TH60’s open deck makes it easier to work on and maintain, and, geographically, it will go anywhere. Stackhouse said, “No two holes are the same.” And now, with the TH60 and T3W team, he is confident he has the right rigs for any job.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback.

Deep Hole Driller Social Media
Atlas Copco Links
Our Recent Issue - Click Below