The Panamanian government supports the water needs of its people with two development entities. One is the Institute of Water & Infrastructure (IDAAN). The other is the Ministry of Development (MDA).
They both use Atlas Copco drilling equipment to accomplish this goal. Supervising manager for rig maintenance inPanama, Nancy Gaitan, oversees both IDAAN and MDA fleets: three T3Ws, four TH60s and three TH10s. Al-though some of the fleet is aging, including a 26-year-old TH60, IDAAN recently took delivery of the three new T3Ws.
Today drilling equipment inPanamais supported through the efforts of a newly openedCustomerCentermanaged by Business Development Manager Hugo Arce. Arce also oversees all market growth throughout Central America and the Caribbean.
Arce is focused on training highly skilled technicians that will support the ongoing development ofPanama: “The current expansion of the Panama Canal has brought growth to the region, and we are committed to the prosperity of Panama.”
Drilling Conditions in Panama
Environmental factors weighed heavily in the selection of which rigs would work best forPanama.Panamais a very rugged country, and the T3W will go anywhere. The rig they chose needed to drill to 1,000-foot depths and handle down-the-hole hammers up to the QL120.
A lot of the drilling is done for community projects. The well under development in the photograph was designed to support 100 residences, with a growth capacity to 500. “This is a common scenario,” said Director of Administration Mr. Villegas. He points out that the plan is to provide clean water to all communities inPanama.
Chief of Drilling Ivan Cedeno said the minimum water flow they want to see on a well is 30 gpm. Normal procedure involves flow testing the well after drilling and again at 72 hours to ensure consistent performance. The well will also undergo tests to analyze the chemical composition of the water.
Drilling the well is just part of the process. Developers at this site ran water lines to each home. A 500-gallon gravity tank maintains a constant supply to the village. Cedeno said the geology throughoutPanamarequires both mud and air drilling methods. This site, 8 km from the Pacific coast, presents a common formation for this region. The surface is a heavy loom to clay, then consolidated sandstone, and finally igneous rock.
The well photographed here was clay to 20 m (60 ft) then another 20 m (60 ft) of consolidated sandstone and rock. The full 40 m was drilled at 10 inches in diameter and cased with 8 inch PVC.
It’s common here to start drilling with mud and a tricone then switch to air. IDAAN purchased Atlas Copco Secoroc tricone bits in 9 7/8- and 12-inch diameters and DTH button bits in 7 7/8- , 9 7/8-and 12- inch diameters. They selected Atlas Copco Secoroc Quantum Leap series hammers for air drilling, including a QL60, QL80 and QL120. The QL gets the best penetration and has the longest life in this formation.
IDAAN wants to keep all Atlas Copco products on site so there is one source for service and support. In addition to drilling consumables, they purchase parts and service items from Atlas Copco. Atlas Copco is also supplying a complete training program and service plans to ensure the drillers get the most from the new drills, and they are working at optimum performance levels.
Nancy Gaitan, who has been with Panama’s water development program for 20 years, appreciates the support she receives from Atlas Copco. “I’m very happy with the performance of the new drills. Like anything new, there were small issues at first, but now all is perfect,” she said with confidence.