Here's the next in a series of product reviews for the FIY (Frack it Yourself) community. Today's offering for FIY-ers is the new 'Kaldera' range of drill bits from Smiths, a subsidiary of the multinational Schlumberger. These bits are ideal for the first timer wanting to frack on a small scale in the back garden say, and are good for drilling down to around 2,000 metres..
The new Kaldera range continues the traditional three-cone theme that traces its roots to a patent (since expired) awarded to Howard Hughes (also since expired) in the 1920s, so it's a proven formula. But that's not to say it's outdated. The Kaldera is brimming with up-to-the-minute features, including new elastomera inserts that can increase 'time on bottom' by as much as 120 hours. Given that running costs for a typical FIY drilling rig can be upwards of $100,000 per day, that could mean quite a saving.
The Achilles heel of the design is the lack of a choice of colours- only olive drab being available at present. If other Smiths launches are anything to go by, we can expect a white version to be announced for the Christmas market. In the meantime you'll have to spray it yourself if you want some other colour.
As with most other bits, the Kaldera is a bugger to move by yourself. Depending on the diameter of the bit (the range spans from 6 inches, to 22.5 inches), the weight can be anything from 140 to 1,632 kilograms.
We loaded a 10 inch model (with the optional diamond inserts) on the Den Sushing test rig at the weekend, and plotted the results with the Hanworth HN4 data-logger. The Kaldera showed a remarkable improvement over the outgoing Smiths 'Mudsucker' model, logging a class-leading 8.9 score over the full range of test strata. (For more detailed results, please add your email address as a comment below). The only weakness of the bit was a tendency to wander more than most when shales of a high calcinity were being bored. We've reported the observation to Smiths who say that it is a 'known attribute' of the design, and is 'being considered'.
Noise, Vibration and Harshness
This was another area where the Smiths engineers have excelled, obviously benefitting from a transfer of know-how since the take-over by Schlumberger. You really could have the friends round for a barbie while letting this baby drill in the background, and they'd never notice a rumble. Of course, the real benefit is not so much operator comfort as minimising the risks that the neighbours might peer over the fence in search of the source of 'that odd noise', and before you know it they are blaming you for their stunted rhubarb.
A fine effort by the boys at Smiths, well deserving a 9.3 out of 10. Aside from the wandering in the high calcinity shales, our only niggle was the lack of a direct upload to Facebook from the optional 8Mpixel camera. To share interesting strata with your friends you have to upload images manually from the data-logger. Come on Smiths, get with the times!