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SOS?Gets Help From Palfinger for Challenging Drill Job

Fri September 30, 2011 - Midwest Edition
Kristie Pohlman

Mining companies that work with the Marcellus Shale formation drill underground in order to supply residential and commercial customers with energy in the form of natural gas. To obtain the gas, they must tap the source, and in this case, it’s a form of black shale that makes up the Marcelllus Shale formation, hundreds of feet below the earth’s surface. Once the rigging and other equipment is in place, the drilling begins.

Contrary to what one may think, the drilling method is quite elaborate. The process starts with the drill bit attached to a drill pipe boring through the ground. Then, compressed air is pumped down the pipe, which lifts the bore’s cuttings to the surface. It’s this debris that creates the need for a Palfinger crane.

As the Morse code in their logo suggests, Specialty Oilfield Solutions (SOS), is there to lend a hand during the process. Based out of Leetsdale, Pa., its team, with Palfinger cranes in tow, provide the centrifuge units that transform the cuttings from trash to treasure.

The centrifuge works based on the same principle as the spin cycle in a washing machine. Inside the unit, the cuttings and fluids spin at an accelerated rate, separating the solids from the liquids. These substances are then processed and used for other purposes within the drilling procedure. Once the Palfinger cranes are used to set the centrifuge and structures, the cuttings come to the surface.

The “mud” then becomes green in two ways. The first way in which SOS sees green is through the return on its investment. By processing the cuttings, it is able to sell solid and liquid byproducts to be used for lubrication, weight to bring up cuttings, fluid loss control, as well as a substance that assists in stabilizing the drilling hole, according to Amelia Roncone, business development manager of Specialty Products for SOS. Another way that Specialty Oilfield Solutions sees green is through its dewatering process, an exclusive method it’s developed to recycle the water used in the system.

“Clear as mud” takes on a whole new meaning when it comes to the dewatering process. Roncone explained that once the cuttings are run through the centrifuge, the fluid is then routed through the dewatering unit, which chemically encapsulates the remaining residue. This visibly separates the residue from the fluid resulting in an effect that looks much like oil and water, according to the company.

This liquid solution is then sent through the centrifuge one more time in order to separate the water that once again has a clear appearance. This water salvaged then returns to the beginning and proceeds through the system all over again.

Charles Hamrick, vice president of drilling fluids, mentioned that they have seen additional benefits by having two sizes of Palfinger cranes. Both the PK 40002 and the PK 32080 are rear mounted and serve several functions.

“The bigger crane allows us to have more reach and lift capacity while the smaller crane is lighter which allows us to have more payload on the trailer,” he said, adding that they are usually asked to assist in moving equipment for mining companies when they see what the knucklebooms can do.

Edward Moyer, vice president of solids control explained that he and Hamrick have always been in the mining business with at least 30 years of combined experience between them. Moyer handles the solid byproducts as well as the equipment and fabrication of tools they use at Specialty Oilfield Solutions. Moyer said that they’ve kept busy with the 20 centrifuge and 16 drying shaker units that they currently employ. This keeps their knuckleboom cranes on the move delivering one or two of the devices to each site. In some cases, all of the machines have been working at sites simultaneously.

When it came to deciding to purchase their cranes, Moyer and Hamrick agreed that there was no question that they’d go with Palfinger, adding that at Nemsco, a company they’d helped to build prior to SOS, “we had around 10 Palfinger cranes and were satisfied with the way they performed.”

Moyer also was instrumental in converting a Haliburton location in Ohio to Palfinger cranes. Moyer explained that having their own cranes was instrumental to their business. Previously, they had to use two trucks to transport each centrifuge, which measures roughly 14 ft. (4.3 m) long. One truck carried the apparatus while the other brought the crane.

With the help of Palfinger dealer Tiffin Loader Crane, they were able to design and build trucks that not only hold the articulated crane, but the 8,600 lb. (3,900 kg) centrifuge units.

Reach isn’t a problem either, especially since the trucks are most often able to align the trailers near the placement site of the centrifuge. They average a distance of about 20 ft. (6 m) when transferring the equipment from truck bed to job site.

According to Jason Smith, sales representative at TLC, the PK 32080 and PK 40002 that SOS owns have horizontal reach capacities of over 46 ft. (14 m) and nearly 68 ft. (21 m), respectively.

Specialty Oilfield Solutions as only been at the Leetsdale location since March of this year but business has exploded for it. In fact, it is quickly outgrowing its warehouse that it thought they would never fill. Its territory encompasses the Northeastern United States, including Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, New York, Virginia and West Virginia, or more simply, wherever Marcellus Shale mining takes place.

For more information, call 800/567-1554 or visit


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