The Benefits of Bentonite Clay in Overcoming Soil Challenges during Boring

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The Benefits of Bentonite Clay in Overcoming Soil Challenges during Boring

At Prairie Dog Underground Boring Equipment, we understand the importance of stability and efficiency when it comes to underground boring projects. One major challenge that often arises is dealing with granular soil or sand. These materials consist of large, uneven particles that do not stick together well. They have voids that allow for the absorption of water, reducing the surface area for weight-to-size contact and surface tension.


When a small amount of water is introduced, it actually helps increase surface tension, allowing the individual grains to stick together. However, excess water can weigh down the mass, causing the hole to collapse. In boring situations, this collapse occurs not solely due to the weight of the sand but also from the sand being weighed down by water. This can lead to complications such as the drill string becoming trapped, making it difficult for it to rotate or move laterally. Ultimately, the bore hole becomes useless, requiring the extraction of the drill rods.


Even in dry boring scenarios where a casing is pushed along with an auger, the auger bit can pull excessive soil ahead of the casing, creating voids immediately in front. This further highlights the need for a solution that prevents hole collapse and maintains stability throughout the boring process.


Drawing inspiration from building sand castles on the beach, we realized that a protective coating could be the solution. Just as a little bit of water helps the sand stick together while excess water causes it to collapse, we turned to bentonite clay to achieve similar results in boring operations.


Bentonite clay has been used for years in vertical and horizontal drilling to prevent hole collapse. Its unique properties allow it to seal off the hole and prevent the ground from absorbing excess water, ultimately preventing sand from collapsing under its weight. The barrier created by bentonite clay is known as a filter cake, effectively blocking further water absorption.


To better understand the application of bentonite clay during boring, we recommend watching this informative YouTube demonstration: Bentonite Clay Demonstration.


Contrary to popular belief, a proper bentonite mixture does not need to be excessively thick or viscous. The bentonite platelets simply need to be suspended enough in the water to coat the hole and block absorption. Fortunately, achieving this is straightforward with a Prairie Dog boring machine. All you need is a small centrifugal water pump connected to a tank that can hold the required amount of water. While our customers typically use 250-300 gallon tanks, we’ve also seen successful implementations using 55-gallon drums. By plumbing the pump with a couple of valves, you can circulate and mix the water and bentonite before diverting the mixture to the machine.


In the majority of bores, around 90% or more, performed with a Prairie Dog machine, no drilling fluids are necessary. However, in some cases where the drill string requires assistance or the bore hole needs support, an additive may be required. This is particularly true for wet bore machines, such as the Prairie Dog, which offer numerous advantages. Wet bore machines can work in a wider range of soil conditions, deliver higher accuracy, and match or surpass the speed of air missiles. They also require less depth compared to moles or missiles to prevent surface upheaval since they displace the soil instead of compressing it. Additionally, wet bore machines allow for the use of drilling fluids, providing further support when needed.


Both inhibitors for difficult clay and bentonite for sand conditions offer cost-effective solutions to overcome soil challenges during boring projects. To find these products, you can reach out to a local drilling mud supplier, visit Baroid IDP, or contact us at Prairie Dog Boring Equipment (866-631-3786) for assistance in locating a supplier near you.


We are here to help you navigate the complexities of underground boring and ensure smooth and efficient operations. Choose Prairie Dog Equipment for innovative solutions and exceptional results.