Granite’s Layne and IDS: 138 years of innovation

February 18, 2020

by Layne, A Granite Company

Identification, definition and development of base and precious mineral deposits drives demand for drilling services. Layne, A Granite Company delivers quality samples that accurately reflect the location and orientation of mineral deposits. Founded 138 years ago, Layne is one of the world’s largest, most experienced water and mineral service companies. Trusted by the world’s premier mining companies, Layne’s professionals deliver high level expertise and technical competence.

Fact stranger than fiction

It’s a sunny day in the Sonoran Desert – a cloud not in sight. A mine site shift begins and we witness everything that entails – heavy machinery, intense work and drillers’ precise focus. Yet there’s something different about this setup. We observe a rig with a green and yellow logo, that reads: ‘Layne, A Granite Company’. A shiny machine, looking more like a space exploration vehicle than a piece of mining equipment, delivers a fully automated rod storage system to the mine site. The rig’s control panel also attracts attention. Next to a set of old-school hydraulic levers is a modern touch screen interface, tracking real-time drilling parameters. This rig is equipped with something reminiscent of the arm of Optimus Prime, lifting the rod and perfectly positioning it. ‘This is called the ARM’, explains Jesse Adkins, the on-site lead driller. ‘ARM being Automated Rod Manipulator – Layne’s patented technology. For us, it means that hands are nowhere near heavy machinery.’ Adkins operates the ARM with a radio control from a safe distance. Witnessing the process is surreal as the rod is automatically released from a storage system, fed through the lubing mechanism, gripped by the roller clamps and swung to the drill mast with stunning precision. A hydraulic motor and gear system screws the water swivel into the top of the drill string. Complex, large-scale motions initiated with one touch of a button.

Layne de Mexico’s track-mounted CT-14 rig

On the safe side

It’s apparent that safety is priority with Layne’s operation. The ARM removes drillers from harm of the most repetitive and demanding task – rod handling. Retrieving and replacing a worn-out bit from a 5000-ft hole requires 500 rod-handling moves, which inevitably leads to crew fatigue. Tools and rods are often greasy, wet and dirty. Hands can be dangerously close to metal rods, next to heavy machinery. In those conditions, it’s best to remove the human element from the equation – automate the process and allow the crew to focus on the general safety of the drilling operation.

Development of this spectacular display of automation requires a team of innovative thinkers to invent, test and implement systems such as radio-controlled collar wrenches, closed loop directional drill motors, load-rated lifting devices, multipurpose drill heads and bottom-hole assembly (BHA) components. Audie Medhurst, General Manager of Layne’s US Mineral Services explains that the process of adding new components to the existing rigs requires input from many team members. Medhurst’s Arizona-based operation was fundamental in fine-tuning the ARM technology, improving the ARM every time it returned from the field, over the course of the last few years.

‘It was a continuous process that yielded excellent results’, confirms Scott Graham – Medhurst’s colleague and Layne Operations Manager. ‘The mine sites are very impressed with how seamlessly the system integrated with our existing rigs,’ he adds. Numerous field tests confirm: the ARM in action delivers an average 30 % speed increase in rod handling over the manual process. The drilling industry has been the focus of many attempts to design rod handlers. Humans have always won the race against the machines. Until now. Layne’s engineering team challenged existing status quo, designing a system that is safer and notably faster than manual rod handling.

Layne Mineral Service’s CS4002 ARM rig

The rest is history

Whether you step foot inside a sun-lit Texas headquarters, an historic Chandler, Arizona office or a Hermosillo, Mexico operation, one thing is clear: passion drives employees to drill the extra mile and vast industry experience dictates all decision making. Brian Smith, Director of Layne’s Drilling Technology Center and the man behind the ARM design, worked as a driller while completing his mechanical engineering degree. He wanted first-hand experience using the very equipment he would devote his life to improving. Smith’s convinced that the best ideas come from the field. Picture a young farmer by the name of Mahlon Layne, struggling to procure enough water to irrigate his Kansas fields. What originated as a homestead water-extraction experiment in 1882 resulted in the most recognized name in water-well drilling.

A decade later, Elmore and Page Boyles purchased their first diamond drill, forming Boyles Bros. Drilling Company in Spokane, Washington. The brothers’ hard work and ambition lead to steady growth and an acquisition by Christensen Diamond Products in 1975. Innovators at Christensen Boyles are credited with revolutionizing the drilling process by developing new rigs, drill tooling and bits – designing the infamous impregnated drill bit with tiny synthetic diamonds scattered throughout the crown. This invention facilitated hard-rock drilling three to four times deeper than previously attained. A century later, Layne merged with the Christensen Boyles Corporation, with the newly formed Layne Christensen becoming one of the world’s largest drilling service providers.

As direct descendants of Christensen Boyles Corporation, Layne’s Mineral Services team uphold diamond core experience that is second to none – continuing the legacy of modernizing drilling tools and processes to solve industry’s biggest challenges.

IDS downhole gyro deviation survey truck setting up to perform survey on Layne CT-20
core drilling rig

The direction of innovation

IDS or International Directional Services is a prominent component of Layne’s Mineral Services division, boasting a rich history of modernization. IDS is a leading provider of non-magnetic downhole gyro deviation surveys, directional drilling services, geophysical logging services, rental of downhole instrumentation and directional mud motor sales. IDS remains at the forefront of technology, ensuring customers in the mining, coal bed methane, and geotechnical construction markets benefit from the latest instruments. Continuous north-seeking gyros and electromagnetic measurement while drilling (EM-MWD) directional steering technology delivers exceptional data quality and efficiency. Extensive experience and proprietary methodology ensures that IDS accomplishes some of the most difficult tasks. IDS General Manager, Jason Smith is ‘proud of our highly skilled staff, utilizing our advanced technology to complete global mining and construction projects’.

The spirit of innovation permeates Layne, domestically and internationally. ‘Drilling in isolated areas with limited resources requires a high-level ingenuity to make a successful operation,’ reveals Gerardo Martinez, Layne de Mexico’s General Manager. ‘What makes this business so unique in the global market is our self-reliance when it comes to support, continuous improvements and preventative maintenance of the equipment’.

Leo Wurtz, Operations Manager at Layne de Mexico elaborates: ‘We run a state-of the art machine and fabrication facility, employing local craftsmen and engineering talent. Our team stands on its own to take care of the fleet. Such in-house capabilities reduce our overhead and provide the dependability and flexibility our clients value.’

Layne de Mexico is living proof of how an organization can reach its full potential when the leaders think outside the box and seriously consider unique regional needs.

Consolidation for success

The Layne story continued its evolution with the firm’s recent acquisition by Granite Construction. Granite, one of the US’s largest full-service construction management firms and materials producers, saw value in joining forces with the top provider of water and mineral infrastructure solutions. Combined strong cultural foundations and complementary operations deem them a natural match. With more than a year of combined operations to look back on, the power of joint resources and experience is apparent. ‘Layne, A Granite Company is now positioned to provide a unique offering to our mining clients’, explains Gernot Penzhorn, Vice President at Layne. ‘We’re able to leverage Granite’s vast experience with complex infrastructure projects and complement our services with newly acquired resources’.

Industry anticipation is evident, as to what these two award-winning companies, melding collective innovative experience will achieve in the near future.

For more information visit: company/our-brands/Layne