Ground Water Canada

Features Drilling
Sandia works with Atlas Copco on DTH hammer that withstands high heat

August 3, 2016  By Ground Water Canada

Albuquerque, NM – Sandia National Laboratories and Atlas Copco have designed a downhole hammer for the U.S. Department of Energy using dry lubricant technology that will work in the high-temperature environment .

The oil and gas and mining industries have used downhole hammers since the 1950s — but the older design, with its reliance on oil-based lubricants, plastic and rubber O-rings, isn’t suited for the hotter temperatures of geothermal drilling, Sandia said in press release.

“The technology behind the new hammer is fundamentally the same, but Sandia worked with Sweden-based Atlas Copco in material selection and dry lubricant technology that will work in the high-temperature environment,” said mechanical engineer Jiann Su, Sandia’s principal investigator on the project with Atlas Copco.


The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Geothermal Technologies Office funded Atlas Copco as prime contractor on the project, and the company partnered with Sandia as the subcontractor.

“Part of what the DOE’s Geothermal Program is looking to do is help lower the cost of getting geothermal energy out to customers,” Su said. “Some of reducing the cost is lowering exploration and development costs, and that’s one of the areas we’re helping to tackle.”

Su said the high temperature hammer could help reach those development goals. He considers the three-year project a success, and said the team and Atlas Copco are looking for opportunities to deploy the tool.

“We developed a tool that can be used in high-temperature environments that can help increase the drilling rates and the rate of penetration to maybe 5 to 10 times that of conventional drilling operations, so that’s a big plus for drillers,” he said. “It adds to the available options drillers have. This is not necessarily the final option for every drilling situation but it does provide a good option for the right situation.”

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