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Curtin Uni Researchers Develop New Drilling Fluid Tech

Researchers at Curtin University have developed a new technology for the rapid cleaning and re-use of drilling fluids, pushing for more efficient and environmentally-friendly mineral exploration. The technology was designed to support next-generation drilling technology, the reformulated fluids are hydrocarbon-free, reducing the risk of environmental harm to exploration sites.

Supported by the Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia (MRIWA) and the Deep Exploration Technology CRC, Dr Masood Mostofi and his research team at the Western Australian School of Mines: Minerals, Energy and Chemical Engineering (WASM: MECE) at Curtin University developed the new technology as part of their ongoing research toward automating fluid monitoring and handling in the drilling industry.

Drillers that bury and explore deep beneath the surface for mineral deposits require specialised fluids that lubricate and cool the active drill head, and that won’t leak away through cracks and porous rocks around the drill site.

Dr Mostofi stated that the new Coiled Tubing drilling technology being developed for mineral exploration needs much higher volumes of these special fluids than conventional drilling. The team has developed a system that can meet these fluid needs in remote locations where geologists might explore new mineral deposits, and reduces the risk of releasing fluids that might affect the local environment.

The team’s reformulated drilling fluid eliminates the use of hydrocarbons, and they have developed a new method for both keeping boreholes stable and rapidly separating rock chips and solid materials from the fluid as it returns to the surface.

Working together with partner technologies being developed by a collaborating tech company, this method will help deliver continuous samples of the rock material a drill is cutting through up to 1000m below the ground while allowing the drilling fluid to be efficiently cleaned and recycled.

In releasing the research report, the CEO of MRIWA stated that research helps move the exploration industry towards safer, greener and cheaper drilling, adding that by supporting these improvements in drilling technology, the Western Australian government is helping our exploration industry develop the tools it needs to succeed.

The smart mining market was valued at US$ 9.27 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach US$ 28.05 billion by 2027. The market is expected to record a CAGR of 20.62% from 2022 to 2027. Mining involves many processes, including resource allocation management of equipment, such as mining trucks, excavators, drills, conveyor belts, transportation and logistics, and more. To ensure that everything runs efficiently and finishes faster, these complex processes require a system to simplify and automate them.

One of the most valuable assets is data; automated drills, trucks, shovels, conveyors, trains, and ships produce vast amounts of valuable data daily. By combining this data with smart analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and automation, various vendors can make their businesses safer and more productive.

Big data, driven by the growing progress of information and communication technology, holds promise as a technology with the potential to restructure the entire mining landscape. Despite several attempts to apply big data in the mining sector, fundamental problems of big data massive data management (BDM) in the mining sector persist.

According to the World Economic Forum, digital transformation initiatives in the mining sector are anticipated to generate over US$320 billion of industry value over the next decade.

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