It’s fast! It’s cost-effective! And it’s being used on six continents to deliver less invasive drilling techniques for geo-technical and geothermal projects, environmental investigations and mineral exploration. Sonic Drilling Ltd. in Surrey, B.C. is using its amazing drilling technology to bore three to five times faster (depending on soil conditions) without using any drilling mud and to provide continuous core samples to depths of more than 100 meters.
Sonic Drilling Ltd. is just one of many talented B.C. green technology companies helping define British Columbia as a leader in progressive, clean and green technology.
Mr. Ray Roussy, the mechanical engineer for Sonic Drilling Ltd., has won two national awards for developing sonic drilling technology — one of the fastest drilling systems in the world. We interviewed Ray about the opportunities, challenges and potential of doing business overseas. Here is what he had to say:
What are the opportunities for this technology internationally?
“Right now, sonic drilling equipment is working in Britain, Holland, Belgium, France, Russia, Japan, Peru, Chile, Africa, Guyana, New Zealand and throughout the USA and Canada. Sonic drilling primary applications include mineral exploration, environmental investigations and geothermal installations but, often, we find our clients using the drill in applications or ways we never dreamed of.
As more companies become aware of sonic drilling, it’s safe to assume that exports of this Canadian technology will increase. This is good news because the exporting of sonic drills currently brings millions of outside dollars back into our country. That money is important because it’s not money that is just being re-circulated within the country and helps with the balance of trade.
In addition, sonic drill rig manufacturing has helped to create more than 100 direct and indirect local jobs.
How did Sonic Drilling Ltd.’s technology earn acceptance?
“Acceptance of this B.C.-developed technology has come in many forms. For example, some U.S. government agencies now insist on the use of a sonic drill for contract requirements for specific projects, often involving sensitive terrain as in dam remediation or nuclear site investigations.
Recently, in 2009, a Florida company organized a competition that only allowed sonic drill rigs with the intent of awarding a major contract to the winning sonic drilling company. In the end, the Florida company was so impressed with the performance of the sonic rigs that it decided to hire all of the contractors.”
What is the competitive advantage?
“Sonic drilling technology allows the drilling industry to take advantage of more opportunities within their scope of trade. By reducing on-site costs and increasing profit margins, more companies are able to grow their geothermal divisions and, most importantly, drill in areas that were impossible in the past because of challenging terrain. I think we will continue to see more companies use sonic technology – either by contracting a drill rig or by purchasing a drill rig.”
What challenges did you face?
“Despite having an intimate knowledge of past sonic research, the challenges to creating a viable sonic drill were daunting. Finding the solutions took much longer than I had ever expected. It was very difficult work that continues to this day despite 30 years of research and development. The first substantial contract that helped launch Sonic Drilling Ltd. on a full-time basis came quickly from the Canadian federal government to help investigate climate change.”
“After building my first sonic drill rig, word of mouth spread quickly around the world about its unique capabilities and I was able to patent my ideas and develop my companies with no public funds or grants. Today, Sonic Drilling Ltd., Sonic Drill Systems and the Sonic Drill Corporation are privately-held.”
Where does B.C. stand in embracing green technology?
“B.C. is actually one of the leaders in Canada for its adoption of various green technologies such as geothermal energy and environmental rehabilitation projects. However, in all honestly, it has been the companies of the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island that made the development of sonic drilling possible. Through their quick adoption of the technology, we were able to use the profits from our contracting division to keep developing and refining the technology to the point where it is today. Without them, I doubt we would have made it.”
Where do you see the company in the years ahead?
“Because of its unique advantages, the sonic rig is now being used around the world to further the adoption of geothermal energy as a sustainable, renewable option by making the cost of a geothermal installation a more affordable choice for consumers. Not only does it have the ability to drill through tough terrain that would have prevented geothermal installations in the past, it also allows the operator the ability to drill, case the hole, install the geothermal loop and grout the hole closed — in one operation. There is no other drill rig on the planet that is capable of accomplishing this, which means we should see the companies continue to grow in the coming years.”
Sonic Drilling Inc. projects in B.C.
- Bennett Dam (emergency intervention)
- UBC Law Library
- Langara College Extension
- Woodward Hill Elementary School (Surrey) – Flickr photos!
- Langley Township Municipal Building
*Recent live drilling at Woodland Creek, Sooke B.C.: Sonic Drilling – Innovative Technology Used to provide Geothermal at Woodland Creek
- Mining exploration in Chile and Peru
- Environmental reclamation, nuclear site investigation and dam remediation in the US
- Pavement melting system for snow clearing in Japan
- Seismic exploration in Canada’s Arctic for oil/gas exploration
- New York subway expansion
- Mineral exploration in Siberia
- Offshore exploration in New Zealand
Does your company want to break into international markets? Do you have questions about doing business in British Columbia’s green economy, particularly in the area of clean energy or environmental technology?
We can help connect you to business opportunities, trade missions and events, seminars and training. Visit www.britishcolumbia.ca and become an international leader in your sector, then think about signing up to the B.C. Business Network.