Resonant Sonic Drilling at DOE's Hanford Site, Washington; and Sandia National Laboratory, New Mexico

Site Name:

Hanford Site, Others


1. Richland, Washington
2. Albuquerque, New Mexico

Period of

1992-1994 (see results)


Field Demonstration


Information not provided

ResonantSonic Drilling

- Used to access the subsurface for installation of monitoring and/or remediation wells and for collection of subsurface materials
- Uses a combination of mechanically generated vibrations and limited rotary power to penetrate soil
- Drill head consists of two counter rotating, out-of-balance rollers that cause the drill pipe to vibrate
- Transmits 50,000 to 280,000 lbs of force to the drill pipe; drills hole diameters up to 16 inches
- Newer designs also include drill head rotation capabilit

Cleanup Authority:
Not used at contaminated sites

SIC Code:
9711 (National Security)
Others - information not provided
Point of Contact:
Information not provided

Not used at contaminated sites

Waste Source:
Not used at contaminated sites

Type/Quantity of Media Treated:
Soil and Sediment
- At Hanford, most drilling occurred in two facies: a coarse-grained sand and granule-to-boulder gravel; and a fine-to-coarse-grained sand and silt
- At Sandia, sediments are extremely heterogeneous, complexly-interlayered units consisting of sands, gravels, and cobbly units, with discontinuous low-permeability layers present

Purpose/Significance of Application:
ResonantSonic drilling, an alternative to traditional drilling technologies, was shown in some applications to be less costly and produce less drilling wastes than cable tool or mud rotary technologies.

Regulatory Requirements/Cleanup Goals:
- Not used at contaminated sites
- Does not require addition of fluids to a well, which in some states is restricted

- Initial Hanford demonstration averaged 23.9 ft drilled per day (8.9 ft/day, including downtime)
- Well depths ranged from 30 to 227 ft
- Provided intact lithologic samples
- Second Hanford demonstration included boreholes drilled at 45° angles, with wells up to 172 ft long
- Sandia demonstration included 3 different drill rigs, with 5-10% less down time than at Hanford

Cost Factors:
- Capital and operating costs for the demonstrations are not provided in the report
- A comparison of cost ($/ft) for ResonantSonic, cable-tool, and mud-rotary drilling is provided based on a hypothetical scenario, for regular and difficult drilling
- ResonantSonic drilling ranged from $208-270/ft, cable-tool from $600-758/ft, and mud-rotary from $221-951/ft, depending on type of site and type of drilling

ResonantSonic drilling has been demonstrated at the U.S. DOE Hanford and Sandia sites as an alternative to cable tool and rotary-mud drilling. This technology is used for installation of monitoring and/or remediation wells, and for collection of subsurface materials for environmental restoration applications. Advantages of ResonantSonic drilling include: lower cost per foot for drilling, can provide relatively undisturbed continuous core samples; uses no drilling fluids and minimizes waste generation; and can be used to drill slant (angle) holes.

ResonantSonic drilling uses a combination of mechanically generated vibrations and limited rotary power to penetrate soil. The drill head consists of two counter-rotating, out-of-balance rollers that cause the drill pipe to vibrate, and transmit force to the drill pipe. From 1991 to 1994, this technology was used on uncontaminated soil in two demonstrations at Hanford and three at Sandia, with an additional demonstration planned at Hanford. These demonstrations included drilling hole diameters up to 16 inches.

Results from these demonstrations were used to improve system design and operation. For example, the initial Hanford demonstration had high percentages of downtime, while later demonstrations at Sandia resulted in much less downtime. These demonstrations included wells drilled up to 227 ft deep, and several wells drilled at 15-45° angles. Further, this technology shows significant waste minimization compared to mud rotary. However, heating core materials remains an issue where no fluid is used to cool the formation and under difficult drilling conditions. ResonantSonic generated core temperatures from 70° F to 140° F under difficult drilling conditions at Hanford. In addition, few drilling companies currently provide ResonantSonic drilling services. This should be considered in selecting this drilling alternative.