Tricone Drill Bit Vs. PDC Bit: Which is Right For You?
If you work in the oil and gas industry, it’s vitally important to always choose the right drill bit for the job. A poor choice might reduce your efficiency, but it also might have disastrous consequences that will end up costing you far more than the bit itself.
Two of the most popular choices for industrial drilling today are the tricone drill bit and the PDC bit. Both of these options have their pros and cons, so the right choice comes down to your operation’s unique needs. Let’s explore the strengths and weaknesses of these two options so you can help make the best decision.
If you need a tricone bit, a PDC bit, or any other type of industrial drill bit, contact OK Bit today. We’ll let you know if we have what you need in stock. If you aren’t sure what you need, our experts will be able to guide you.
Tricone Drill Bits
Tricone bits were invented in the early 1930s by Hughes engineer Ralph Neuhaus, and in the near century since, they’ve become a mainstay of all types of industrial drilling operations. Tricone bits are named for their three moving roller cones which require lubricated bearings.
They’ve been tested time and time again, and many professionals consistently find them to be the best options for a wide variety of operations. To support this, engineers have repeatedly improved the design as technology evolved to allow for the addition of innovations like tungsten carbide inserts and sealed journal bearings.
Although rival PDC bits excel in many rock formations, tricone bits are still the best choice for drilling projects involving gravel, limestone, dolomite, and most other formations that aren’t homogenous, consolidated rock.
Issues can arise with tricone bits when they are worn out prematurely. This can happen when the bit is over-rotated. When you buy a bit from us, we’ll always advise you on ways to extend its life as long as possible. While tricone bits are less expensive than PDC bits, that won’t mean much if you have to replace them far more often.
Tricone bits work well in both soft and hard formations, but it’s important to choose the right tricone bit based on PSI. Overall, tricone bits can handle a range of 4,000-40,000 PSI. Since this is a massive scale, you can use this as a quick reference:
- Soft formation tricone bits: 4,000-8,000 PSI
- Medium soft formation tricone bits: 8,000-15,000 PSI
- Medium hard formation tricone bits: 15,000-25,000 PSI
- Hard formation tricone bits: 25,000-40,000 PSI
Pros of Tricone Bits
- Extremely versatile
- Good for both soft and hard rock formations
- High impact resistance
- More control
- Low-cost initial investment
Cons of Tricone Bits
- Shorter lifespan
- Slower than PDC bits
- Can lose parts in boreholes
- Require lubrication
Polycrystalline diamond compact bits have existed since the early 1970s, but they’ve only recently gained traction for water well and HDD purposes. This delay was mostly for financial reasons. While they started out as prohibitively expensive for most drillers, they’ve slowly become more and more affordable for operations of all sizes. Now they’re some of the most widely used bits in the world.
The most notable difference between the PDC bit and tricone bit is that the PDC bit has no moving parts. PDC bits use fixed heads, and they’re made through a combination of tungsten carbide and artificial diamonds fused under pressure and heat. There are a few different body styles, but the “bullet head” variation is most common. PDC bits are generally faster than tricone bits, and they come in two types: matrix-body and steel-body. Matrix body bits are a little more expensive, but they are often more durable and require less maintenance.
One benefit of PDC bits is their ability to excel in soft rock. Most rock drill bits, including tricone bits, are designed to work well on hard rock, but they often suffer when applied to very soft formations. In general, PDC bits can work well in rock with a PSI between 2,000 and 30,000. Depending on your hardness, you’ll likely find that different amounts of blades are ideal. There’s some variation, but this can act as a quick reference guide:
- Three blades: 2,000-8,000 PSI
- Four blades: 6,000-11,000 PSI
- Five blades: 8,000 to 20,000 PSI
Pros of PDC bits
- Fast and safe
- PDC bits have a long lifespan, so even if they cost more upfront, they may be the cheaper option in the long run. For this reason, they’re often the better choice for large-scale operations.
- Because they have no moving parts, it isn’t possible to lose parts in the borehole during an operation. The same can’t be said of tricone bits.
- PDC bits can achieve a higher rate of penetration than tricone bits under the right circumstances, lowering the overall cost per foot.
- They work well in both soft and hard rock formations.
Cons of PDC bits
- Cutter can break in high impact formations
- Don’t work as well as tricone bits for very hard rocks
O-K Bit has the drill bits you need
Ready to order the bit you need? Feeling lost? Either way, we can help. Contact OK Bit today. We’ll let you know if we have what you need in stock. We can also customize drill bits for your operation. If you aren’t sure what you need, our experts are always happy to help.