Reverse Circulation Rotary Drilling Rig
RC drilling is similar to air core drilling, in that the drill cuttings are returned to surface inside the rods. The drilling mechanism is a pneumatic reciprocating piston known as a "hammer" driving a tungsten-steel drill bit. RC drilling utilizes much larger rigs and machinery and depths of up to 500 meters are routinely achieved. RC drilling ideally produces dry rock chips, as large air compressors dry the rock out ahead of the advancing drill bit. RC drilling is slower and costlier but achieves better penetration than RAB or air core drilling; it is cheaper than diamond coring and is thus preferred for most mineral exploration work.
Reverse circulation is achieved by blowing air down the rods, the differential pressure creating airlift of the water and cuttings up the "inner tube", which is inside each rod. It reaches the "divertor" at the top of the hole, then moves through a sample hose which is attached to the top of the "cyclone". The drill cuttings travel around the inside of the cyclone until they fall through an opening at the bottom and are collected in a sample bag.
The most commonly used RC drill bits are 5-8 inches (13–20 cm) in diameter and have round tungsten 'buttons' that protrude from the bit, which are required to drill through shale and abrasive rock. As the buttons wear down, drilling becomes slower and the rod string can potentially become bogged in the hole. This is a problem as trying to recover the rods may take hours and in some cases weeks. The rods and drill bits themselves are very expensive, often resulting in great cost to drilling companies when equipment is lost down the bore hole. Most companies will regularly re-grind the buttons on their drill bits in order to prevent this, and to speed up progress. Usually, when something is lost (breaks off) in the hole, it is not the drill string, but rather from the bit, hammer, or stabilizer to the bottom of the drill string (bit). This is usually caused operator error, over-stressed metal, or adverse drilling conditions causing downhole equipment to get stuck in a part of the hole.
Drilling capacity with Reverse Rotary Rigs 1200 feet to 2000 feet