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The application of appropriate well drilling technology in Sierra Leone

The application of appropriate well drilling technology in Sierra Leone

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The objectives and results of an EWB-UK well drilling programme in Sierra Leone.
The objectives and results of an EWB-UK well drilling programme in Sierra Leone.

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Published by: Engineers Without Borders UK on Mar 26, 2013
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EWB-UK National Research Conference 2010
‘From Small Steps to Giant Leaps...putting research into practice’ 
 
Hosted by The Royal Academy of Engineering19
th
February 2010Panel Presentation: Putting Research into PracticeAuthor: Dave Howey & Ron DennisInstitution: Developing Technologies 1
The application of appropriate well drilling technology in Sierra Leone
R.A. Dennis
1
and D.A. Howey 
2
 
1
Developing Technologies, Room CG54, Tait Building, City University, Northampton Square, London, EC1V 0HB, United Kingdom.Tel: +44 (0)20 7040 8109, Email: info@developingtechnologies.org 
2
Dept. of Mechanical Engineering, Imperial College London, SW7 2AZ.
Abstract
This paper describes the objectives and results of a 4-month EWB-UK placement to Sierra Leone in 2009 to continue work on thepercussion drill and well drilling programme of Developing Technologies. The percussion drill is an intermediate technology productwhich began as an undergraduate student research project and is now being turned into a sustainable enterprise in Sierra Leone. Todate this project has successfully supported wells in ten villages, serving 2,500 people. The project has also demonstrated theeffectiveness of locally made rope-washer pumps.
Keywords
:
Developing Technologies, percussion drill, intermediate technology, appropriate technology, rope-washer pump
Introduction
Developing Technologies (DT) is an innovative UK charity working to alleviate the effects of poverty in developing countries throughthe design, development and transfer of technology that is appropriate to the needs of poor communities. Through student projectwork, DT provides technical support to organisations working in developing countries. Every effort is made to find demand-led projectsand to transfer projects overseas with ongoing support for implementation and dissemination. Started in 2001, and now backed by theconsiderable engineering resources of two large London universities, DT has successfully trialled technology in six countries and hasseven projects in development.At the EWB-UK research conference 2009, we presented a case study of a percussion drill for sinking water wells [1]. The project wasoriginally initiated as a student project at Imperial College in 2005/6 and is now being implemented in two countries, Sierra Leone andTanzania. This paper gives an update on the percussion drill programme, following a recent 4-month EWB-UK placement to SierraLeone in 2009, and draws out results and lessons learnt.This is an example of a project which has successfully moved from student undergraduate research through to implementation and isnow being scaled up and turned into a sustainable enterprise.
Background
Worldwide nearly one billion people lack access to clean drinking water, causing over 3.5 million deaths annually (WHO). In SierraLeone 27% of children die before the age of five, largely due to diarrhoea caused by dirty drinking water. Developing Technologies hasdeveloped a low-cost version of the percussion drill aimed at setting up local well-drilling enterprises. Currently most wells are hand-
dug in around three months and are usually inadequate to provide water through the dry season. DT’s design can be manufacture
dlocally and can be transported to areas without road access. Crucially it can also sink wells in a range of soils and rock. Our localpartner, Rural Water Aid (RWA) can now install wells more cheaply than by hand-digging, in two weeks instead of three months, andwith a higher success rate. To date wells have been installed in ten villages serving around 2,500 people and we are now working todevelop a viable local enterprise to provide long-lasting safe water.Most water wells are drilled by large commercial rigs costing £100,000 or more and requiring large funding. Smaller percussion drill rigsare available but cost around £15,000 with all tools. It is therefore costly to set up small enterprises for local well-drilling programmesand there is a definite niche for a low-cost, portable rig that could be largely manufactured locally, and could access off-roadcommunities that larger rigs could not reach. Human powered percussion drilling is fairly common but is slow and time-consuming. Theaim of the project is to develop an intermediate solution between this and the costly commercial rigs.
Placement objectives
In April 2009, EWB-UK volunteer Chris Cleaver was sent to Sierra Leone to undertake a 4-month placement, with a number of objectives to continue and expand the work on the percussion drill:
 
EWB-UK National Research Conference 2010
‘From Small Steps to Giant Leaps...putting research into practice’ 
 
Hosted by The Royal Academy of Engineering19
th
February 2010Panel Presentation: Putting Research into PracticeAuthor: Dave Howey & Ron DennisInstitution: Developing Technologies 2
Upgrade the existing DT drilling rig, which has been in place since 2007, into a portable rig so that it could be easily transported intooff-road areas in the Gbo Chiefdom. The initial prototype was driven by a pick-up through a rolling road arrangement but it wasdecided that in expanding the drilling programme the vehicle would be needed for transport and should not be tied up in drillingoperations. The upgraded rig was therefore to have an integral engine and transmission drive.Introduce a second drilling rig, with training of local staff to operate it. The design of this second rig was based around a modifiedversion of the original DT rig. This was developed by our UK charity partner Africa Research Institute (ARI). This new rig was kindlydonated by ARI and shipped to Sierra Leone by DT.Assist local partner, Rural Water Aid (RWA), in setting up a rural water services enterprise to ensure the sustainability of the drillingprogramme.Investigate tools and techniques for improving drilling performance.Design, manufacture and install rope-washer pumps and evaluate their performance in comparison to conventional hand-pumps,which are costly and troublesome. This was initiated by Chris Cleaver but also relates to student research work undertaken by ImperialCollege undergraduates with supervision by DT.
Results and discussionObjective 1:
Upgrade existing rigThe drilling rig, powered by a 5.5kW Honda petrol engine, was satisfactorily upgraded, see
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. It wasdivided into three sections that can be bolted together on site. Each section can be comfortably carried by two persons. Awheelbarrow was also constructed to carry the heavy drill tools. The rig was tested on two test wells, with a total of 10m depth. Aftersome stiffening of frames it worked well but some development of tools is needed.The rig provides a very valuable tool for drilling in hard-to-access locations, as far as is known nothing similar exists. It can bemanufactured locally, with most components being locally available, at a cost of around £2,000. After some field testing it should be avaluable resource with good potential to provide improved water supply to needy communities.
Objective 2:
Introduce second rigUnfortunately, there was a lengthy delay in clearing the second rig through customs(not entirely surprising in Sierra Leone!). However, following its successful arrival, theRWA drilling team was trained in its use and one 8 m test well was drilled. Therobustness and durability of the rig has been well proven previously by ARI inTanzania. Some development of tools is needed but the main problem is handling andtransport of the rig because of its weight, 240 kg. It is considered too heavy for thefragile pick-up owned by RWA and it was decided to repair a trailer owned by RWA tocarry it, towed by the pick-up. Unfortunately this task could not be completed withinthe 4 month placement period. This highlights the need to address transport aspectscarefully. Use of lightweight vehicles on rough earth roads is always likely to beproblematic and therefore transport is an important design consideration. Althoughthe portable DT rig (Objective 1) overcomes this problem, its lightweight design is notsuited for continuous heavy-duty operation and it is aimed specifically for morelimited operation in locations that cannot be reached with other drilling rigs.
Objective 3:
Setting up of enterpriseOur partner RWA is now well established with the resources needed to provide awater service to local communities although some work is still needed on drillingtechniques and development of tools. RWA have both of the rigs already discussedand have also been testing a small commercial rig for comparison purposes. This givesthem good capacity to drill wells both in locations accessible by road and locationswhich are not accessible by road.RWA also have the capability to produce rope-washer pumps at very competitive costs (see below). However, they still need toimprove their capacity to provide guidance on good hygiene practice in handling water. In the future we hope that RWA might be ableto provide a complete water, sewerage and hygiene package which also includes latrines.However, the missing factor is the marketing and business plan to exploit the capacity. The water programme in Sierra Leone is fundedmainly through the Government but little is known about the extent of the market or how it works. A number of international NGOssuch as World Vision, CARE and Action-Aid are also funding well programmes but these appear to be mainly by hand-digging.We are interested in the possibility of providing in-depth training of a drilling manager from Sierra Leone who could then set up awater services enterprise. RWA are currently seeking a person who might be suitable for this role. Toward the end of his placement,Chris Cleaver organised a very successful in-country seminar to promote RWAs capacity. This was well attended by a good range of 
Figure 1:
Upgraded DT drilling rig ready fortransportation
 
EWB-UK National Research Conference 2010
‘From Small Steps to Giant Leaps...putting research into practice’ 
 
Hosted by The Royal Academy of Engineering19
th
February 2010Panel Presentation: Putting Research into PracticeAuthor: Dave Howey & Ron DennisInstitution: Developing Technologies 3
representatives of Government and the main NGOs, and well received. Although attendees were not at the most senior level there isno doubt it will have promoted awareness of RWA capacity through those attending reporting back to management.This highlights the importance not only of capacity building, but of the obvious importance of: (1) a business plan, (2) the rightpersonnel, (3) training and (4) the need for local marketing and promotion.
Objective 4:
Investigate improved drilling tools/performanceComparison tests with a commercial rig showed that the main difference in mechanical design is in the drive from the engine to winch.The commercial rig has an epicyclic gearbox with integral reduction drive, clutch and brake. Both of the DT rigs have belt and chainreduction drives and a simple lever clutch of a motorcycle wheel engaging with a flat pulley. The commercial rig clutch requires lessoperator effort and the drive appears to have less resistance and inertia allowing a faster drop of the tool, which seems to improvedrilling performance. However, the inner working of the unit is an unknown quantity and it seems very likely that if anything goeswrong or wears out it will not be possible to repair it locally. In contrast, both the DT rigs have been designed for local manufactureand repair and are far more affordable than the commercial rig. The latter costs around £15,000 compared with £2,000 for the DT rigand around £4,500 for the DT-derived ARI rig. It seems unlikely that the commercial rig could be afforded by a local SME. It could onlybe acquired by donation. The DT and ARI rigs work effectively and reliably, albeit with a little more operator effort, and are consideredto meet the original product criteria of being appropriate to local conditions and affordable to SMEs.The availability of the commercial rig was also very useful in comparing tool performance. The commercial rig cutting headarrangement allows for much flexibility in varying cutter weight for use with different tools. The rig has three tools
 –
 
a ‘digger’, clay
cutter and bailer
. The ‘digger’ is similar to the clay cutter in combined cutting and picking up soil but is more effective in harder, drier
soils and is easier and quicker to clean. The ARI rig uses solid bar tools that would have to be imported in many countries. It has fourtools, a rock cutter (150kg), a chisel tool for hard soils (94kg), a clay cutter (61kg) and a bailer (28kg).The DT rig is designed to use tools that can be locally made, using a pipe filled with ballast. Initially, scrap steel embedded in concretewas used but to make the tools easier to transport it is proposed to fill them with sand on site. The problem with ballast is that thetools have to be longer to achieve the required weight and this reduces the drop height when starting a hole, slowing down the initialdrilling. Some further development is needed on this.Although the DT tools work reasonably well there is clearly room for improvement using lessons from the commercial rig tools and thisneeds to be included in further development of the rigs. We have found by discussion with Geotechnics experts that percussion drillingis a skilled technique learnt over many years. Experienced operators can judge the soil conditions from the sound of the tool impactand adjust the drilling technique accordingly. Less experienced operators will get results but drilling will not be as efficient and they willrun into more problems, especially with getting drill tools stuck in the hole. The latter is an ongoing problem in Sierra Leone with therisk increasing as the soil gets wetter close to the water table. Chris Cleaver developed a technique to control drop height using asimple indicator on the cable. This is an improvement but further investigation is desirable.The other major problem in technique is drilling below the water table (this is required in order to allow for variations in the level of the water table through the seasons). The problem is that below the water table the drill hole fills up more quickly than can be drilledand at present it appears that wells are only going 1 to 2 m below the table and a part of this is lost by sealing off the bottom of thelining pipe with rocks dropped down inside the pipe. No information has been found on the drop of the water table in the dry seasonbut at least two of the wells drilled by RWA are seasonal so this is an issue that needs to be further investigated. It seems likely that adepth of 3 to 4m below the water table will be adequate but this can easily be confirmed by measuring the water depth in existingwells over a period of time. Another problem that occurs if wells are not deep enough is that the rate at which water can be extractedis reduced.
Objective 5:
Rope-washer pumpsExisting hand pumps are very expensive, cost around £450 each or about a third of the cost of the well. In light of this, it was decidedto try a rope-washer pump as a cheaper option. DT was already running a student project on this subject at Imperial College, but to getlocal experience a commonly available design was adapted for use with local resources and manufactured by a local workshop, withfunding from RWA (figure 2). A 19 mm diameter PVC tube with hand-cut rubber washers was implemented. This worked well and threeadditional pumps were subsequently built with a number of improvements. Firstly, the frame was changed so that the pump could befully enclosed. Secondly the washers were punched using a sharpened pipe, giving much improved tolerances. These changesimproved the performance of the pump considerably, achieving a hydraulic efficiency up to 90% (see figure 3). Steel tube bearingswere replaced by hardwood bearings to reduce the wear on the pulley shaft which had caused the shaft to fracture at the bearings.These improvements have produced an efficient, reliable pump but its durability has still to be evaluated. We have asked RWA tomonitor the performance of the pumps over the next year or so. Local capacity has been established for the manufacture andmaintenance of the pump. This is an exciting development.

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