A drilling crew performing geotechnical drilling in El Paso

The Science of Geotechnical Drilling in El Paso

When it comes to commercial construction, you know that every step of the process is crucial to the success of a project. Before the building process can even begin, it’s necessary to ensure that the land is suitable for construction by using a technique known as geotechnical drilling. 

In this article, we’ll explore more about this process and show you how the El Paso Drilling team can help provide you with crucial information about your construction site to make your next project a success.

What is Geotechnical Drilling?

Geotechnical drilling is a type of investigative drilling that provides data about soil quality and contents to design and monitor the construction of buildings, dams, bridges, roadways, or other infrastructure sites. This drilling is an important part of the construction process as the information gleaned from these studies helps project managers and engineers determine the supporting characteristics of the soil, which in turn provides insight into the type of materials needed for the project, appropriate depth for installation of pilings, whether or not the angle of the ground will affect building conditions, and more.

Geotechnical Drilling Techniques

When it comes to geotechnical drilling, there are a variety of techniques involved in this delicate process, which is why this part of the construction process should always be left to the professionals. The five types of geotechnical drilling technologies include:

  • Sonic drilling
  • Hollow stem or solid stem auger drilling 
  • Rotary drilling
  • Direct push
  • Coring

Let’s take a look at each of these drilling technologies more closely to see what information each technique can bring to your next construction project.

Sonic Drilling

Sonic drilling is an advanced geotechnical drilling technique that is ideal for deep and shallow drilling applications and can be utilized with any type of soil for nearly any project. This low-impact technique involves the use of specialized equipment that utilizes high-frequency, resonant energy to rotate and vibrate the drill to provide an efficient collection of soil samples while maximizing crew safety.

Auger Drilling

Auger drilling is an eco-friendly, proven geotechnical drilling technology that has a wide range of uses, including soil sampling, installation of data collection instruments, subsurface improvements, and more. This type of drilling involves the use of either hollow stem or solid stem cutter heads that are used to obtain soil samples using split spoon samplers. This type of drilling is the ideal choice for environmental sampling because there are no additives used in the drilling process.

Rotary Drilling

As one of the more basic drilling techniques available, rotary drilling involves the use of a sharp, rotating drill bit coupled that uses impact force to drill through layers of substrate. There are several unique varieties of rotary drilling, which include:

  • Air rotary
  • Mud rotary
  • Dual rotary
  • Reverse circulation rotary

This type of geotechnical drilling is ideal for projects requiring an increased depth as this method is typically more robust than other alternative methods.

Direct Push Drilling

Direct push technology involves the use of a hydraulic hammer to advance the drill through ground layers in an effort to perform soil, groundwater, and vapor surveys or monitor wells. This type of drilling is often used in the collection of multiple samples as direct push drilling can reach deeper depths with a lower impact on the environment than some other types of drilling.


Diamond core drilling is a technique most commonly used in the mining industry as an approved method for working with cemented or hard rock environments. This technique involves the rotation of diamond-impregnated steel into the ground while applying downward pressure to collect rock core samples for analysis.

El Paso Geotechnical Drilling

If you’re looking for more information on geotechnical drilling for your next project, contact our team in El Paso, Texas, to learn more about our services. 

Considering Different Types of Dirt in Commercial Digs and Industrial Excavation 

A drill digging a hole

Dirt is complicated. It may not seem like it at first glance, but there is a lot going on in the soil. As drilling experts, we have to be aware of where we’re digging and what we’re digging for safety and environmental reasons. It’s not always clear-cut. There are plenty of safety issues and questions to consider regarding the soil before determining what drilling technique to use, what approach, and how to make it more efficient. 

Here are the basics. 

The pH Level of Soil and Why It Matters

If you ask experienced gardeners or farmers, they will tell you a little bit about how the pH of the soil affects what they do. In short, pH levels help when determining what to plant and not to plant in a particular patch of soil or to figure out what type of soil should be used to improve certain crops or plants. In commercial drilling, the nature of the soil matters too.

The pH level is the gauge of the hydrogen-ion concentration or the potential hydrogen in a particular substance. So the pH level measures the acidity or alkalinity of soil and can heavily impact the growth of plants or crops. This number affects the solubility of minerals and nutrients in the soil. About 14-17 essential plant nutrients are obtained from the soil. So, for the gardener, pH is a key factor in understanding how they will plant. 

The pH level of soil provides a lot of information about the properties of that soil. The pH can be determined by using a special pH meter.

How Does Soil pH Change?

Changes in the pH level happen naturally or artificially if substances get spread throughout the soil. Soil can become acidic, for example, through rainwater, carbon dioxide caused by decomposing matter, and the formation of strong organic or inorganic acids.

How Does the Soil Affect Excavation Methods? 

When it comes to drilling and excavation work, knowing the type of soil in question is an important part of our job. It not only improves safety but also affects the efficiency of the job. 

A Closer Look at the Drilling Process

When the equipment digs into the soil, it produces what are called drill cuttings. This refers to the broken bits of material that are produced and then removed from a borehole. This material is brought back to the surface with what is called the drilling mud. The mud is also called drilling fluid and it comes back up as part of the drilling process and is often examined to understand the nature of the soil at various depths. 

This process applies to commercial digging, as well as deep excavation for oil wells and other industrial purposes. 

Drilling fluid is an important and crucial ingredient to maximize the efficiency of a drilling crew. When it comes to certain types of commercial drilling, the nature of the soil will play a role in maintaining the integrity of the bore path. The drilling fluid provides lubrication and cools down the tools used in the dig. In many instances, the use of the drilling mud or drilling fluid helps to flush out the drill cuttings

The pH of soil comes into play from the effects of drill cuttings, as they can not only affect the digging process, but they can also change the acidity of the soil. The excavator is also tasked with the proper disposal of these drill cuttings to ensure environmental protection and integrity. 

Different Types of Soil When Digging 

The kind of soil in question during a dig can vary based on pH and other factors. After all, soil is a mixture of sand, silts, clay, air, gravel, and water. Soil in any given place will vary in its cohesiveness based on the amounts of these ingredients that apply. 

For example, sand and gravel are coarse-grained soils and are considered more granular. A highly cohesive soil will not crumble. The amount of clay in the soil will highly affect the digging process and how well trenches will hold up. 

OSHA classifies soils into four main categories including Solid Rock, Type B, Type A, and Type C. The classification of the soil becomes important when considering what technique and approach for drilling. 

Other Safety Considerations for Excavation Crews 

Drilling is a complex process that involves heavy machinery and a large crew. In addition to understanding the technical aspects of the machinery and how it interacts with the soil, the kind of soil that is being drilled into, there are safety considerations that every crew must consider. 

OSHA has stringent safety measures that must be taken when it comes to drilling and trenching, so understanding the types of soil plays a role in the types of safety measures and protocols an excavation crew will take. 

Choose the Pros for Commercial Cluster Drilling!

At El Paso Drilling, we specialize in commercial digging and cluster drilling. Our team is highly specialized in dealing with different types of soil classifications and ensuring compliance with environmental safety and worker safety.

Want to learn more? Call us today!