IDDO maintains and operates existing ice drilling equipment and develops new systems with two principal foci:
1. to provide high quality ice cores, and
2. to produce boreholes that provide access to the interior and beds of ice sheets and glaciers for such purposes as embedding instruments, collecting gas samples, setting seismic charges, studying subglacial processes, and studying subglacial geology.

Agile Sub-Ice Geological (ASIG) Drill

The IDPO Long Range Science Plan 2013 identified science goals for ice drilling that spanned a wide range of science targets. One of the goals is to develop a better understanding of the extent and volume of ice sheets under paleoclimatic conditions warmer than the present (e.g. Eemian). Cosmogenic nuclides in rock beneath ice sheets can reveal former ice sheet extent and the timing and duration of past exposure periods. Under ice less than 700m thick, agile methods for reconnaissance recovery of small rock cores are needed for use near outcrops and near the ice margins. In response to this, IDPO-IDDO has initiated work on a new Agile Sub-Ice Geological Drill capable of coring up to 10 meters of rock core beneath hundreds of meters of ice.

The conceptual design of the ASIG Drill – completed in August, 2014 – makes use of a modified commercial drill rig designed for exploratory rock coring in the hard-rock minerals industry. IDDO purchased the base off-the-shelf minerals exploration rig in April, 2015. The system is currently in the detailed design phase, with construction of the system scheduled to start in June, 2015. IDDO engineers are currently designing and fabricating ice augering/drilling attachments, fluid handling and chips handling equipment, and casing setting and inflatable packer equipment. The system was successfully field tested in North America during summer 2016. The ASIG Drill's first use for an NSF-funded project is planned for Antarctic field season 2016-2017 for recovery of rock core under several hundred meters of ice.

Science Requirements

The Science Requirements for the drill were developed in an iterative process led by Mary Albert with community representatives John Stone, Jaakko Putkonen, and Ed Brook, and with IDDO engineer Tanner Kuhl. The following are the final approved science requirements.

Science Requirements

  1. Produce 700 m borehole to base of ice with drilling and retrieval of 10 m of bedrock core and / or unconsolidated frozen sediment core.
  2. Ice drilling will include the possibility that the ice is entrained with rocks.
  3. Ice drilling will be to dry, frozen-bed conditions, and will not be done in areas where there is subglacial water.
  4. Retrieve several short ice cores (~50 cm long) at up to 700 m depth.
  5. Ice drilling may be in ice that is within 2.0 C of the pressure melting point.
  6. Required ability to drill at ice borehole temperatures as low as -40 C, and surface temperatures as low as -30 C.
  7. Retrieve 10 m of bedrock cores of maximum 33 mm (1.3") diameter beneath the ice sheet.
  8. Maximum site altitude for the design should be 2,500 m.
  9. Maximum time at a site, including set up and core retrieval, should be 6 days.
  10. Stand-alone capability is needed for operation at small field camps at remote sites.
  11. Minimal staff (4) for drilling operations in the field; other field camp staff in support of drilling operations to be provided separately.
  12. Drilling fluid or a fluid "system" (to be determined) will be immiscible with water.
  13. Drilling fluid should not be a boron-rich fluid.
  14. Drill system must be transportable by Twin Otter, or helicopter with sling load.
  15. Drilling depth of each core collected should be determined and recorded.
  16. Drilling and core handling history should be recorded.

View of the control system for the base off-the-shelf minerals exploration rig.
—Credit: IDDO, UW-Madison

View of the base off-the-shelf minerals exploration rig inside the IDDO warehouse.
—Credit: IDDO, UW-Madison

View of the base off-the-shelf minerals exploration rig inside the IDDO warehouse.
—Credit: IDDO, UW-Madison

Conceptual scale model view of the ASIG drill system as deployed to the field

Conceptual scale model view of the ASIG drill system as deployed to the field. Green drums are drill fluid. Orange and red drums are fuel. Wire-line tower height is 26-feet. Credit: IDDO Engineering.

Relevant Documents

Questions or Comments

Questions or comments should be sent to Mary Albert.