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From about 1860 to the end of the eighties, water well drillers were using rotary drilling, flushing the wells with water and discarding the solids-laden fluid in pits on the surface, not reused in the drilling process.   European drillers routinely used hydraulic drilling for water wells but seldom for oil.  Even though American drillers used hydraulics for water wells, they routinely used cable tools for oil drilling. It was reported that hydraulic rotary drilling was successfully used in Baku, Azerbaijan to drill for oil in the 1890s, but I could find no drilling fluid descriptions of there process. It can be assumed they followed the water well drilling process and discarded the fluid.

 
In 1833 a French engineer named Fauvelle was watching a cable tool drilling operation in which the drilling apparatus struck water. He realized that the gushing water was very effective in lifting the cuttings out of the well. Thus, he established the principle of using a moving fluid to remove cuttings from the well bore.  Flauvelle, however, did not put this principle to work until 1845.
 

Beart's Apparatus for Hydraulic Rotary Drilling

Flauvelle described the rotary hydraulic drilling process in 1833. The first patent of a process using a rotary motion with a circulating fluid, however, was published in 1844 by Robert Beart.  Beart's patent describes an apparatus for "boring in the earth and in stone that the earth or matters cut or moved by the tools employed may be carried away by streams of water."  In Beart's English patent a stream of water passes down the annulus and up the drill pipe, in what we now call reverse circulation.

 

Beart's device removed cuttings by a syphon action, carrying them inside the drill pipe , being discharged into a sump as shown in the diagram.  Brantley describes the process as follows:
 

"As the bit makes hole the fluid from the upper pit (lower left in the diagram) passes down the bore (annulus) and is mixed with the cuttings by the bit.  The fluid with cuttings then pass up the drillpipe through the hydraulic swivel (top left of diagram) into the discharge pipe and down the pipe into the lower, right hand pit.  Th halt the fluid movement the vertical discharge pipe (on the right) and the slopping discharge line coming from the swivel are picked up.  When the discharge outlet is level with or above the fluid level in the left hand pit, the fluid flow stops."  

Brantley states that "reverse circulation has been used for special purposes and under special conditions since the beginning of practical fluid circulating rotary drilling with the diamond drill machines of nearly 100 years ago.

 Even though Beart got the first patent for for a hydraulic rotary drilling apparatus and process, there is no evidence that such a device was ever built and used.  Flauvelle. however, is credited with with actually drilling a well using the hydraulic rotary method.  Flauvelle also stated that his method could be used in either  percussion or rotary drilling.  He drilled his first well using a circulating fluid (water) in 1845.

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