GSDS is a company based in Morgantown, WV formed to provide vertical drilling, lining and equipping of shafts in overburden and rock to depths greater than 2,500 feet and diameters up to 15 feet. The existing equipment fleet consists of a 150 ton capacity fabricated drilling rig capable of drilling shafts up to 6 feet in diameter. In addition a 500 ton machine that is capable of drilling shafts up to 15 feet in diameter with the drill pipe and bottom hole assemblies allowing depths in excess of 2,500 feet.
The large diameter shafts are drilled using the reverse circulation method that uses compressed air and the static pressure of drilling fluid to move cuttings to the surface efficiently and provide stabilization of the rock formations to prevent caving or failure of the integrity of the shaft prior to the installation of the permanent lining.
The shafts are generally lined with steel or concrete and the liners are cemented in place with cement placed under pressure.
WHILE OUR COMPANY IS YOUNG, OUR FOUNDING MEMBERS HAVE DECADES OF COMBINED EXPERIENCE.
In the old days, the shaft construction business was conducted differently from today. Business deals were made based on reputation, respect and handshakes. Equipment specific to drilling shafts was nonexistent. There were oil field type drilling rigs that were built to drill very small holes to a great depth. They were not useful for drilling large diameters. Shaft sinking for the mining industry was primarily a conventional operation, meaning the crew drilled holes for dynamite, loaded the holes, blasted the holes and shoveled the broken rock into buckets that were hauled to the surface. This was a time consuming and dangerous process. Workers were sometimes hurt or even killed when they were hit with falling rocks or equipment as well as health hazards such as silicosis. By the early 50’s the mechanically minded shaft sinkers decided they needed and developed machines to make the work of shaft sinking less arduous and safer. These machines were in-hole boring machines that worked in a dry environment. Most underground work takes place in wet ground with running water in aquifers. Blind shaft drilling technology was drawn from the oilfield equipment and boring machines.
Blind drilling combined wet drilling for efficient cuttings removal with large diameter tools to become a remotely functioning system that could be controlled entirely from the surface in a water filled hole. The method virtually eliminated issues from water intrusion and rock wall deterioration due to the presence of a column of water in the shaft while drilling. The next essential factor that made the wet drilling method successful was the development of cuttings removal by reverse circulation. The reverse circulation method was developed because clearing the cuttings from the bottom of the hole by pumping water under pressure into the drilling pipe could not produce sufficient flow to carry material to the surface. The solution was to force the cuttings to travel upward in the drill pipe, the smaller diameter of which allowed the flow of water to be exponentially faster and able to carry the cuttings up with the flow. The drill pipe's upward flow of water is activated by compressed air injected down the center of the drill pipe. Rock cuttings are moved by the circulation of the water down the hole, across the shaft bottom and up the drill pipe to the surface. On the surface the water is piped to a pond or tanks where the rock is separated and the water is allowed to drain back to the hole.
The early development of this method took place in the 1960’s in Northern West Virginia and concurrently at the Nevada Test Site where the technology was used to drill emplacement holes for underground nuclear testing. Much of the parallel technology was shared in the 70s and 80s improving both the western and eastern versions. The Institute of Shaft Drilling Technology was an organization formed to encourage this sharing.
The development of this technology in West Virginia was encouraged by many people including Joseph Swiger.
Global Shaft Drilling Services was founded by Joseph Swiger, a well-known luminary in the shaft construction community. Mr. Swiger grew up with the blind shaft drilling technology from childhood. He began by working on a shaft boring project near his home in Harrison County, WV. Soon he moved into a supervisory role and contemplated ways to improve the drilling process. Mr. Swiger supervised and managed many of the most significant projects of the time, including the rollout of the newest machine developed for shaft construction at the time, the Hughes CSD-820. This was a revolutionary machine that led the way into a generation of equipment known as the “pile top rig”. The CSD lead the way in the top head drive concept to shaft drilling. Mr. Swiger confronted the many startup issues with the CSD with skill and determination and made it work very well in real world projects.
In 1984, he founded North American Drillers and built it into the powerhouse that became SDI. Mr. Swiger was involved in numerous projects requiring multiple drilling rigs across the United States. He was active in forming and implementing corporate administrative policies, while growing and developing the leading blind bore shaft drilling company in the Continental United States. He sold SDI in 2007 and pursued his other interests.
His love of the business would not let him stay away, so in 2012 he founded the present day entity of Global Shaft Drilling Services. Generally recognized as a pioneer of the large diameter blind bore drilling industry, Mr. Swiger continues to remain active with Global Shaft Drilling in the innovation and fabrication of equipment by pushing the limits of current designs.
Global benefits from the many years of knowledge and experience provided by Mr. Swiger and his management team. Global is focused on bringing integrity and customer satisfaction back to the shaft boring business and at the same time performing the work as economically as possible with low overhead. Global’s employees are a multi-talented team and are capable of performing a variety of tasks from equipment, concept, fabrication and maintenance ensuring that the equipment completes the job on site safely and satisfactorily.
Global’s heritage is firmly rooted in the underground coal mining industry, but has reached out into other markets for the shaft drilling technology such as chemical installations, civil construction, tunneling, lake intake construction and the vertical movement of air, water and people through the earth for any purpose.
Blind shaft drilling is by nature more practical than other rock excavation methods and is particularly suited for projects in tight locations such as adjacent to pre-existing buildings and in urban environments.
The blind shafts may be equipped with a variety of linings, structures such as elevators or stairways, fans, pumps and emergency escape systems. Many of these are designed in house by Global.
Global’s headquarters encompasses office and shops capable of manufacturing rigs and drilling equipment. A well-equipped machine shop is also a part of the facility, containing a full complement of equipment including CNC machines.