Ulterra PDC Bit and MORE Global Water Provision Story


We love this story and are proud to have played a part in MORE’s efforts to address the global water crisis. This story first appeared on the https://more-water.org site. It’s a great read from the perspective of an Ulterra PDC bit. 

What?  You don’t think a drill bit can have a story? Well, I have one.  And it’s a pretty cool story, I think – if anyone cares to listen!  You see, it all started in a factory in Texas, at a company called Ulterra  They are manufacturers of all kinds of drill bits.  But they specialize in PDC Bits.  So, what is a PDC Bit, you may be asking.  Good question.  It stands for Polycrystalline Diamond Compact. That’s a real tongue twister, eh?  All it means is that they use small particles of manufactured diamonds – not the super expensive natural ones that are made into rings and other fine jewelry.  But just as hard. These particles are integrated into randomly oriented crystals to form a thin matrix that is effectively bonded with a tungsten “table”.  These tables can then be easily be brazed onto the steel drill head.  It is only the PDC “table tops” that contact the formation during drilling.  Eventually these cutter heads wear down and have to be replaced.

Anyway, I can’t remember how many holes I drilled as part of a large stable of similar PDC bits, in all shapes and sizes, while working on large drilling platforms in South Texas.  But eventually, me and some of my bit buddies in our group, were cleaned up, packed up and shipped back to the Ulterra factory.  Some of the old timer bits told me not to worry, that I would be back.  I was just going in for my “spa treatment” at Ulterra’s fancy “salon”.  Nothing more than a “wash and perm” they said – and maybe a pedicure!  “Sweet!” I thought.  I could use some R & R. Here I would have my worn PDC cutters removed and brand new ones brazed back into place.  Quickly my trepidation turned to excitement.

But after my visit to the salon – which was wonderful, as expected – and with my brand new sparkling diamond matrix cutting heads, I was not returned back to the oil drill rig.  Instead they took me to some new shop, where some guy came and picked me up.  He seemed really excited when he saw me, which nearly made me blush!  Then he held me up for show while he and his friends took pictures – of me!  I was thinking, “wow, maybe I’m going to get some kind of award, or something!”  But for what, I was trying to reason with myself, while not trying to act too “puffed up”.  Then, of all things, the guy takes me home and sticks me in a corner in his tiny apartment.  “Hey”, that’s no way to treat I star!” I wanted to tell him.  But I didn’t.

Oh, but that’s when it really starts getting weird.  One day he brings home this plastic box on wheels.  Then he sprays some kind of stinky liquid that starts growing into this crazy foam.  While it is still forming he drops me into this gooie quagmire and sprays some more of this gross stuff, all around me.  When it hardens in a short time, he tries, but can’t even move me.  I’m stuck.  But he doesn’t seem to care.  In fact, he actually seems quite impressed with my predicament.  He even shows me off to his neighbor, I remember.

The next thing I know (a few days later), he rolls me into an airport, where they weigh me.  Then after sitting there for the longest time, he takes me over to a corner and cuts off the plastic ties that he used to secure the top of the rolling box.  What now, I thought.  This is getting weirder by the moment.  Before I had the words out of my “mouth”, he starts cutting away at the hardened foam around my body, with this really big pocket knife.  I thought for sure he was going to cut me up, but he was very careful to only cut the foam.  So how did he get this big knife into an airport, I was thinking.  Geez, is he some kind of terrorist, or something.  Oh no!  Better be quiet about that, I figured.

So then he pulls me loose from the container and unscrews this fancy steel connector thing that he had made at another factory, before he put us into the ice chest and sprayed the foam – all around us.  I didn’t tell you about that trip – to the other factory – to have this “skirt thing” fabricated.  Mainly because it’s just too weird, but also because I heard them talking at that factory when they were measuring my “bottom”.  They said I was “too big” to fit on the guy’s pipes.  While they said, “too big”, I know that they really meant “too fat”!  How do you think that made me feel? No way to treat a rising star in the oil and gas drilling arena, right?  Geez, I really don’t get any respect.

Okay, so, we’re back at the airport. When he gets me loose, he unscrews the skirt thing from my “bottom” and lays me back into the ice chest.  But not before taking “skirt guy” and wrapping him in bubble wrap and putting him into his checked bag.  “Oh man!” I thought, “I was enjoying that bubble wrap.”  It was cozy, like a comforter – for wherever we were heading off to.  But it did feel good to have that skirt thing off my bottom, I had to admit.  Then he closed the top and secured it again – for my journey to “who knows where”.

In what seemed like days later, and several plane rides and airport transports, before I once again saw the light of day, but had no idea where I was – only that I couldn’t wait to get out of this box.  (It was, actually three days, as there was a huge mess-up by the folks at Delta-KLM, in getting both me and my drill bit from Houston to Nairobi, after overnights in Atlanta and Amsterdam.  My bags actually didn’t arrive in Nairobi until a day later.)  When finally, my box lid was opened, I was confronted with several quite different-looking folks (different than my traveling friend, anyway).  They were jabbering in a language, also totally different than my friend, while pointing at me.  Evidently they had never seen a high-classed PDC bit like me before, I thought.

Finally, after a lot of turmoil and more jabbering, some nice, quiet-speaking lady, who was talking in a language somewhat similar to my friend – but sweeter, and prettier-sounding, she must have helped my friend work it all out.  She eventually re-closed my box lid and I was rolled out of that building and into a car, apparently.  A short time later – much shorter than the plane rides, I was handed over to my new friend, who seemed excited beyond belief to see me again.  I could see he was beaming as he showed me off to his friends – who looked more like him, I noted.  Once again I’m sure that I blushed.  I couldn’t help it!  He then rolled me into this house and I found myself in my own room.  Awesome, I thought, this is where this guy really lives – in this lovely large house – and not that tiny, cramped apartment.  Good for him, I thought.  Maybe he’s not a looser, after all, I conjectured.

But no, it was not to be, I soon found out.  The next day he again secured me in my box and we went on another car ride – to yet another airport.  “Oh no, not again,” I thought.  But this time I was loaded onto a much smaller plane, I could tell.  I knew that because I could still hear people talking, even as me and my luggage companions were nestled into our own compartment and the plane took off.  Actually it was more like crammed-in than “nestled”.  But this time, no sooner had we taken off, I could tell, but we were landing again.  Then he rolled me out and packed me into another car.  By now I was learning that his name must be Bobu, because that’s what I heard everyone calling him here – and in the US, as I now recall.  In fact a pretty young lady, along with three really cute kids, all called him that as she was helping him finish packing me into my traveling box, before our trip to the airport, I remembered.  Now he was rolling me into another house.  Here, he, once again, opened my box and showed me off to two more of his friends – both of whom looked like him.  But not exactly.

This time I don’t remember blushing.  I was too busy taking in my surroundings.  “Oh my”, I thought, I don’t know if he lives here or his friends do, but this is more like it.  There were beautiful palm trees and flowering tress and plants – everywhere.  I saw more people splashing around in some well-fashioned watering hole and the sky was bright blue and the sun was beaming down.  You have to understand, having spent my whole existence hanging around oil drilling rigs or being screwed deep into rock formations below the surface, this was all quite amazing to me. Surely, this must be drill bit heaven, I concluded.  Finally, a surrounding worthy of my beauty and elegance as a star-studded PDC bit – I justified, if not even somewhat indignantly. Yes – finally, I had arrived!