GEO: Ben, some may know you and your work, but for those who aren’t familiar, can you share a bit about you, your story and how you became the CEO of Strada Global?
BEN: I come from a long family of drillers, in fact, our drilling history goes back four generations. My grandfather and great-grandfather drilled water bores in the outback of Western Australia and were bushmen at heart. Our family specialised in reverse circulation drilling which produces rock samples to analyse for mineral deposits.
Improving drilling methods and safety has always been very important to us. Our methodology is to innovate and invent continually, adapting our tech equipment and rigs to make them more efficient and safer, and as a result, Strada Global has developed an extensive drilling-related patent portfolio. I became CEO of the company as a result of how I do business; I’m very big on corporate governance and transparent leadership and that strongly aligns with Strada’s mission.
GEO: What is Strada’s mission? What is your “why”?
BEN: When I was growing up, during every school break or between every university semester, I would work on drilling rigs. But it wasn’t something I wanted to go into as a career. Like many people, I associated drilling with exploring for minerals or for extracting oil and gas, and that didn’t interest me. Many people have that social perception of drilling, that it’s for exploiting the earth.
It was really when I found out what drilling could do for the planet, that my attention turned to Strada Global. When we saw the issues the geothermal industry faced with drilling in hard granite, we knew we had the drilling knowledge and the IP to turn the problem around and finally solve those challenges.
That mission of changing the planet and using our capacity to drill for good is the foundation and driving force behind Strada. Every member of our team is here because they share our vision and want to be part of having an impact on the world. To us, it’s more than a vision, it’s the principle that we abide by every day.
I have a core belief that this is a world-changing technology. And when you face hurdles – as you inevitably do when you’re taking technology from a concept into fully tested, patented product – understanding what this technology can do for the earth really helps you put the challenges into perspective.
GEO: What are the existing challenges facing the drilling industry, particularly in geothermal?
BEN: Hot Dry Rock (HRD) is the biggest challenge. And that’s actually our sweet spot. The accessible aquifers and existing geothermal reservoirs are quite well catered for; drilling companies are able to access and utilise the current resources. But HDR has always been a challenge for geothermal drilling, which is exactly why we exist.
Large firms have conceptualised the potential of hot, dry rock, the capacity factor of the energy that sits beneath our feet. It’s a huge resource. But the access has always been expensive, risky, and almost impossible to reach. Tackling that problem is the biggest factor and that’s what we’re aiming for – ultra-deep geothermal drilling.
GEO: How has Strada worked through these?
BEN: We’ve identified that at some point you’re going to hit hard rock, regardless of your terrain. And you need to get through that hard rock if you want to access the deep geothermal heat resources. That’s where our technology makes the biggest difference. We’re not aiming for the sediments or volcanic terrain, we’re really focused on drilling methods capable of drilling as deep as possible, at an affordable price.
GEO: Based on the January field tests, what can you share about the FHOS? It’s performance and how this advances drilling technologies and methodologies?
BEN: We’ve really proved the concept of our Fluid Hammer Operating System (FHOS). Much of it is still commercially sensitive due to the fact that we’ve just fine-tuned our tolerances, operating pressures, and general component metallurgy.
But as the first point of call, we focused on the design itself, along with the correct parameters to operate at its best performance. After proving our design works, we’ve focused on refining the materials to last as long as possible. There have been some learnings in manufacturing processes and oversights to ensure that we have absolutely the best quality product possible. We have huge oversight into our manufacturing processes and don’t allow any weak spots. That’s allowed us to choose the best manufacturers so that we can build the best products.
GEO: What are the next steps?
BEN: We’re currently in the manufacturing process of our patented and now proven hammers, ready for deployment in Q4 2020. This includes hardware of our dual circulation water hammer, dual circulation drill pipe, drill collars, and drill stem accessories and dual circulation swivels. Our development in this phase also includes the design and manufacture of the technical interface which will allow our dual circulation drilling tools to be adapted to existing rigs. We’re also recruiting to expand our operations in the field, which is exciting.
Into Q4 2020, we’ll begin the deployment of our technology for commercial use. The first of the FHOS product range will be the DCWH 120, a 12-inch hammer, which you can find out more about in an update here. Initial opportunities have been identified and we’ll begin to mobilise.
GEO: What’s important for the industry to know?
BEN: Importantly, a lot of people are on this mission, but we would like them to see the benefits of percussion drilling. Not necessarily just our fluid hammer percussion, but percussion drilling as a whole. The geothermal industry is really waking up to percussion drilling and its benefits. But there’s still a historic feeling that oil and gas drilling techniques are good for geothermal. But the fact that there’s a new style of return demands that there be a new style of drilling.
GEO: We obviously agree the potential is “everywhere” but where do you see this being commercially tested, and made available for the industry?
BEN: Our first deployment will be in critical infrastructure projects which can put a lot of beats and kilometres to test our hammer. We really want to put it through its paces through the biggest variety of terrains; the most difficult, salty, hard, and even unconsolidated terrains that there are.
While still having a benefit to the planet, these critical infrastructure projects also allow the geothermal industry to view our technology in action, and be secure about how well it works.
GEO: Will Strada sell this technology, provide the service, or some other market strategy?
BEN: Essentially, we want to provide the service, and there’s no-one that knows this hammer better than us. We’re best suited to see it to market. We’ve developed a huge amount of knowledge in our testing programmes and throughout the manufacturing process. There’s always room for collaboration, but Strada’s mission is to deploy our technology in geothermal projects. I want to see this technology in the best hands, and right now those hands are ours.
GEO: What are you most hopeful about with our industry?
BEN: Drilling companies that are able to quickly learn and expand to our benefits. Ultimately we’re still collaborating with other drilling partners and if they were to keep the same mindset that they drilled on previously, then it’s going to hold up our ability to deploy our technology quickly.
But we do see drilling companies who are very progressive. We work very well with these kinds of partners because they’re willing to learn and can truly see the benefits of drilling quickly.
GEO: How important is public outreach and consistent messaging when it comes to promoting and educating the public about our industry? And Why?
BEN: It’s very important for our industry. I think in general, the public perception of drilling is incorrect. In the mind of the average person, drilling is something that takes resources out of the earth and damages the planet, whereas what we can achieve is very different.
Our mission is certainly to see our technology deployed effectively and at scale to create maximum benefits for our planet. But along with that, we are focused on developing awareness that fully baseload ‘always on’ energy can now be accessed quickly and cost-effectively, everywhere. Unlocking geothermal energy through groundbreaking technology innovation can be the solution to the world’s clean energy needs. Together with progressive drilling partners and governments, we can accelerate our decarbonised future.
This concludes our interview with Benji Strange, CEO of Strada Global. It was a pleasure connecting with him, discovering how passionate he is about drilling innovation and their mission to change the planet, as well as being able to help tell their story here. We encourage you to follow Strada Global on Instagram and visit their website frequently. There is always something new to read or watch.
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