Resonance : the science behind the art of sonic drilling

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Engineering


The research presented in this dissertation quantifies the system dynamics and the influence of control variables of a sonic drill system. The investigation began with an initial body of work funded by the Department of Energy under a Small Business Innovative Research Phase I Grant, grant number: DE-FG02-06ER84618, to investigate the feasibility of using sonic drills to drill micro well holes to depths of 1500 feet. The Department of Energy funding enabled feasibility testing using a 750 hp sonic drill owned by Jeffery Barrow, owner of Water Development Co. During the initial feasibility testing, data was measured and recorded at the sonic drill head while the sonic drill penetrated to a depth of 120 feet. To demonstrate feasibility, the system had to be well understood to show that testing of a larger sonic drill could simulate the results of drilling a micro well hole of 2.5 inch diameter. A first-order model of the system was developed that produced counter-intuitive findings that enabled the feasibility of using this method to drill deeper and produce micro-well holes to 1500 feet using sonic drills. Although funding was not continued, the project work continued. This continued work expanded on the sonic drill models by understanding the governing differential equation and solving the boundary value problem, finite difference methods, and finite element methods to determine the significance of the control variables that can affect the sonic drill. Using a design of experiment approach and commercially available software, the significance of the variables to the effectiveness of the drill system were determined. From the significant variables, as well as the real world testing, a control system schematic for a sonic drill was derived and is patent pending. The control system includes sensors, actuators, personal logic controllers, as well as a human machine interface. It was determined that the control system should control the resonant mode and the weight on the bit as the primary two control variables. The sonic drill can also be controlled using feedback from sensors mounted on the sonic drill head, which is the driver for the sonic drill located above ground.



Sonic drilling


Copyright (c) 2002-2022, LYRASIS. All rights reserved.