EWB-UK National Research Conference 2010 ‘From Small Steps to Giant Leaps...

putting research into practice’ Hosted by The Royal Academy of Engineering th 19 February 2010

The application of appropriate well drilling technology in Sierra Leone R.A. Dennis1 and D.A. Howey2

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

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 the percussion drill and well drilling programme of Developing Technologies. The percussion drill is an intermediate technology product which began as an undergraduate student research project and is now being turned into a sustainable enterprise in Sierra Leone. To date this project has successfully supported wells in ten villages, serving 2,500 people. The project has also demonstrated the effectiveness 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 through the design, development and transfer of technology that is appropriate to the needs of poor communities. Through student project work, DT provides technical support to organisations working in developing countries. Every effort is made to find demand-led projects and to transfer projects overseas with ongoing support for implementation and dissemination. Started in 2001, and now backed by the considerable engineering resources of two large London universities, DT has successfully trialled technology in six countries and has seven 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 was originally initiated as a student project at Imperial College in 2005/6 and is now being implemented in two countries, Sierra Leone and Tanzania. This paper gives an update on the percussion drill programme, following a recent 4-month EWB-UK placement to Sierra Leone 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 is now 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 Sierra Leone 27% of children die before the age of five, largely due to diarrhoea caused by dirty drinking water. Developing Technologies has developed a low-cost version of the percussion drill aimed at setting up local well-drilling enterprises. Currently most wells are handdug in around three months and are usually inadequate to provide water through the dry season. DT’s design can be manufactured locally and can be transported to areas without road access. Crucially it can also sink wells in a range of soils and rock. Our local partner, Rural Water Aid (RWA) can now install wells more cheaply than by hand-digging, in two weeks instead of three months, and with a higher success rate. To date wells have been installed in ten villages serving around 2,500 people and we are now working to develop 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 rigs are available but cost around £15,000 with all tools. It is therefore costly to set up small enterprises for local well-drilling programmes and there is a definite niche for a low-cost, portable rig that could be largely manufactured locally, and could access off-road communities that larger rigs could not reach. Human powered percussion drilling is fairly common but is slow and time-consuming. The aim 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:
Panel Presentation: Putting Research into Practice Author: Dave Howey & Ron Dennis Institution: Developing Technologies


EWB-UK National Research Conference 2010 ‘From Small Steps to Giant Leaps...putting research into practice’ Hosted by The Royal Academy of Engineering th 19 February 2010

Upgrade the existing DT drilling rig, which has been in place since 2007, into a portable rig so that it could be easily transported into off-road areas in the Gbo Chiefdom. The initial prototype was driven by a pick-up through a rolling road arrangement but it was decided that in expanding the drilling programme the vehicle would be needed for transport and should not be tied up in drilling operations. 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 modified version of the original DT rig. This was developed by our UK charity partner Africa Research Institute (ARI). This new rig was kindly donated 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 drilling programme. 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 Imperial College undergraduates with supervision by DT.

Results and discussion Objective 1: Upgrade existing rig The drilling rig, powered by a 5.5kW Honda petrol engine, was satisfactorily upgraded, see Error! Reference source not found.. It was divided into three sections that can be bolted together on site. Each section can be comfortably carried by two persons. A wheelbarrow was also constructed to carry the heavy drill tools. The rig was tested on two test wells, with a total of 10m depth. After some 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 be manufactured locally, with most components being locally available, at a cost of around £2,000. After some field testing it should be a valuable resource with good potential to provide improved water supply to needy communities. Objective 2: Introduce second rig Unfortunately, there was a lengthy delay in clearing the second rig through customs (not entirely surprising in Sierra Leone!). However, following its successful arrival, the RWA drilling team was trained in its use and one 8 m test well was drilled. The robustness and durability of the rig has been well proven previously by ARI in Tanzania. Some development of tools is needed but the main problem is handling and transport of the rig because of its weight, 240 kg. It is considered too heavy for the fragile pick-up owned by RWA and it was decided to repair a trailer owned by RWA to carry it, towed by the pick-up. Unfortunately this task could not be completed within the 4 month placement period. This highlights the need to address transport aspects carefully. Use of lightweight vehicles on rough earth roads is always likely to be problematic and therefore transport is an important design consideration. Although the portable DT rig (Objective 1) overcomes this problem, its lightweight design is not suited for continuous heavy-duty operation and it is aimed specifically for more limited operation in locations that cannot be reached with other drilling rigs. Objective 3: Setting up of enterprise Our partner RWA is now well established with the resources needed to provide a water service to local communities although some work is still needed on drilling techniques and development of tools. RWA have both of the rigs already discussed and have also been testing a small commercial rig for comparison purposes. This gives them good capacity to drill wells both in locations accessible by road and locations which are not accessible by road.

Figure 1: Upgraded DT drilling rig ready for transportation

RWA also have the capability to produce rope-washer pumps at very competitive costs (see below). However, they still need to improve their capacity to provide guidance on good hygiene practice in handling water. In the future we hope that RWA might be able to 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 funded mainly through the Government but little is known about the extent of the market or how it works. A number of international NGOs such 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 a water 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
Panel Presentation: Putting Research into Practice Author: Dave Howey & Ron Dennis Institution: Developing Technologies 2

EWB-UK National Research Conference 2010 ‘From Small Steps to Giant Leaps...putting research into practice’ Hosted by The Royal Academy of Engineering th 19 February 2010

representatives of Government and the main NGOs, and well received. Although attendees were not at the most senior level there is no 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 right personnel, (3) training and (4) the need for local marketing and promotion. Objective 4: Investigate improved drilling tools/performance Comparison 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 chain reduction drives and a simple lever clutch of a motorcycle wheel engaging with a flat pulley. The commercial rig clutch requires less operator effort and the drive appears to have less resistance and inertia allowing a faster drop of the tool, which seems to improve drilling performance. However, the inner working of the unit is an unknown quantity and it seems very likely that if anything goes wrong or wears out it will not be possible to repair it locally. In contrast, both the DT rigs have been designed for local manufacture and repair and are far more affordable than the commercial rig. The latter costs around £15,000 compared with £2,000 for the DT rig and 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 only be acquired by donation. The DT and ARI rigs work effectively and reliably, albeit with a little more operator effort, and are considered to 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 head arrangement 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 four tools, 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 concrete was 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 the tools have to be longer to achieve the required weight and this reduces the drop height when starting a hole, slowing down the initial drilling. 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 this needs to be included in further development of the rigs. We have found by discussion with Geotechnics experts that percussion drilling is a skilled technique learnt over many years. Experienced operators can judge the soil conditions from the sound of the tool impact and adjust the drilling technique accordingly. Less experienced operators will get results but drilling will not be as efficient and they will run into more problems, especially with getting drill tools stuck in the hole. The latter is an ongoing problem in Sierra Leone with the risk increasing as the soil gets wetter close to the water table. Chris Cleaver developed a technique to control drop height using a simple 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 drilled and 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 the lining pipe with rocks dropped down inside the pipe. No information has been found on the drop of the water table in the dry season but 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 a depth of 3 to 4m below the water table will be adequate but this can easily be confirmed by measuring the water depth in existing wells over a period of time. Another problem that occurs if wells are not deep enough is that the rate at which water can be extracted is reduced. Objective 5: Rope-washer pumps Existing 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 decided to try a rope-washer pump as a cheaper option. DT was already running a student project on this subject at Imperial College, but to get local experience a commonly available design was adapted for use with local resources and manufactured by a local workshop, with funding from RWA (figure 2). A 19 mm diameter PVC tube with hand-cut rubber washers was implemented. This worked well and three additional pumps were subsequently built with a number of improvements. Firstly, the frame was changed so that the pump could be fully enclosed. Secondly the washers were punched using a sharpened pipe, giving much improved tolerances. These changes improved the performance of the pump considerably, achieving a hydraulic efficiency up to 90% (see figure 3). Steel tube bearings were 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 to monitor the performance of the pumps over the next year or so. Local capacity has been established for the manufacture and maintenance of the pump. This is an exciting development.

Panel Presentation: Putting Research into Practice Author: Dave Howey & Ron Dennis Institution: Developing Technologies


EWB-UK National Research Conference 2010 ‘From Small Steps to Giant Leaps...putting research into practice’ Hosted by The Royal Academy of Engineering th 19 February 2010

Figure 2: Original rope-washer pump

Figure3: Improved rope-washer pump

Conclusions The programme has made substantial progress from a student project to overseas implementation and a number of communities have been provided with wells. The DT rig has the advantage of low-cost through local manufacture and maintenance, allowing wells to be drilled at a competitive cost. A major cost component is the pump and our experience with rope-washer pumps shows they are an simple, effective solution to this challenge. The project illustrates the work of DT in converting the enthusiasm and skills of students into viable and sustainable enterprises that can provide goods and services to improve the lives of poor people in developing countries. We feel the following lessons have been learnt so far: 1. Percussion drilling is an appropriate and effective method for drilling water wells by local SMEs (Small to Medium sized Enterprises). Its main advantage is that it can drill in all soils. 2. Average drilling rates of up to 5m/ day can be achieved in normal soils dropping to 1m/ day or less where there is considerable rock. This allows wells to be fully installed in about 2 weeks compared to 3 months or more if hand-digging. The cost (without pump) is £600-700 for a 20m well compared to around £1,500 for a hand-dug well (and the latter are much larger in diameter and require expensive brick or concrete lining). 3. Techniques are very important in achieving effective well-drilling practice and this is where some further work is needed. Drilling teams need time to establish good practice and skills. 4. Introducing the technology is the simple part. Establishing it on a long-term sustainable basis is the difficult part. DT feels this is best achieved through setting up commercially viable enterprises and this is our aim in Sierra Leone. This requires business and marketing skills. The following areas require further work:      Improvement of drilling tools. Development of a technique for drilling below the water table without problems. Development of techniques to mitigate the risk of the tool becoming stuck. Arranging of transport for the heavier ARI rig. Monitoring of performance of rope pumps, and further development as needed.

Acknowledgements We would like to thank Chris Cleaver for the excellent work that he carried out during the placement in Sierra Leone. We are grateful for the help of EWB-UK in arranging the placement. We would also like to thank ARI for the significant investment they have made in this project, and the donation of the drilling rig.

References [1] Dennis, R.A. and Pullen, K.R., A Case-Study of Drilling Water Wells Illustrating the Work of Developing Technologies, Proceedings of the Engineers Without Borders UK conference 20/02/2009 held at the Royal Academy of Engineering, London.

Panel Presentation: Putting Research into Practice Author: Dave Howey & Ron Dennis Institution: Developing Technologies


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