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Senior Design F19-55.1 Downhole Blaster Tractor


Our goal for this project was to design a downhole tractor that can be used in long, horizontal fracking wells to help extend the reach of fracking operations. The challenge that fracking operations face is that as the well runs longer and longer horizontally, it becomes much harder to push the wireline forward due to increasing friction. Our objective was for our tractor to use hydraulic fracking fluid and differential pressures to pull the fracking materials further down the lateral.

    The client for this project was Dr. William Fleckenstein, a professor in the Petroleum Engineering department at the Colorado School of Mines. Dr. Fleckenstein has been working on improving and refining the Mines downhole tractor for the past couple of years and the eventual goal is getting a marketable solution put forth.


Team Members

  • Jonah Buckley
  • Ilya Fedorchuk
  • Kyle Hansen
  • Josh Knighton

The Client

  • Dr. William Fleckenstein


Project Advisor: Dr. Bahman Rejai

Company Oversight and Help: Ulterra

 ~ Tom Damian

~ Matthew Roseman


Elevator Pitch

Design Approach

Our initial iteration for the design of the tractor was to have the mud motor connect to the tractor and flow through six different channels inside the housing. We thought that having six different channels would offer more pressure to actuate the wheels. The reason we did not continue with this design was because we wanted a design that would be easier to manufacture. The detail needed for each channel and the low tolerances needed for the holes connected from the base of the wheels to their respective channels were too low to be seen as a budget choice.

Design Solution

The final design solution was to create a single channel housing. We chose this because it would be easier to manufacture and we found that the pressure was still sufficient enough to actuate our wheels. On the outside of the housing, where the wheels will be inserted, we designed it so that the fluid would need to stay isolated within the nub and not pour into the underside of the entire wheel base. Two screw holes are located on the sides of the nubs so that we could stop rotation of the wheel bases and so that we could insert springs to pull back the wheels once pressure lowered.

The picture below is a cut section through the middle of the entire wheel assembly. The middle, bottom hole is where the fluid will flow towards to apply pressure to actuate the wheel assembly. The two outer holes will contain washers, screws, and springs to help connect and have the ability to retract to the housing.

We wanted the tractor to be able to rotate through the well by using wheels. One of our design concerns was that we were unsure that the connection to the wheel would stay intact. To determine this we did a case study with our design specification of 150lbs per wheel acting on the top of the wheel. We assumed that all the force would be normal to the wheel because the tractor is designed to use the pressure from inside the housing to push the wheels out and onto the inside of the well. The wheels are aligned in a way that by pushing against the well, the tractor will rotate and push forward. As shown below the connection to the wheel shows a displacement of 0.0006in, which is almost negligible. Concluding that our wheel design will not fail under our design specifications.

Next Steps

For the next steps in our project, the team would like to create a physical model of the tractor and build a testing apparatus in which we can run the tractor. Since we don’t have the necessary means to construct the tractor to our specifications, we would partner with an outside company that would be able to machine the tractor as precisely as the team needs.

Meet the Team

Jonah Buckley


I am a Mechanical Engineering student graduating this May of 2020. I have been working as a dance instructor for various studios while attending school. When I graduate, I hope to either work in the aerospace industry or perform work that relates more to mechanical design. While at Mines, I chose coursework that would further my studies into aerospace as much as I could from a mechanical standpoint. I love working in SolidWorks and I even obtained my Professional certification in SolidWorks.


During this project I got to experience the real design process and realize how a design can change, and be iterated throughout the course of the project lifetime. This has made me understand better on how a mechanical designer should always be open and ready for design changes.


To contact me further, please email me at the following address:


Ilya Fedorchuk


I am a current senior in Electrical Engineering with a minor in Computer Science originally from Boulder, CO. While at Mines, I have enjoyed the endless support of the faculty, staff, and my fellow students and I leave with many fond memories. I will be pursuing a career in VLSI Engineering upon leaving school. In my spare time, I enjoy wilderness photography, reading, and backpacking.  During my time at Mines I was involved in IEEE and Caving club.


Working on the downhole tractor, I have learned some skills outside of my field of study, like prototyping and mechanical design. This experience has sparked my interest in tinkering and building various small devices, like a small box for wire organization. 

Please feel free to contact me on Linkedin at the following link:

Kyle Hansen


I am a Mechanical Engineering student who will be graduating this May of 2020. I will then continue on at Colorado School of Mines working on a Masters degree in Computer Science. I plan on getting a certificate in Cyber Security and taking machine learning and AI courses as well. From there I would like to pursue a career involving travel and new technology. In my spare time I enjoy dirt biking, playing piano, dancing and spending time with friends.


Throughout the downhole tractor project, I learned a lot about project management and the life cycle and course of a project. I learned how to keep a team on track and how to work through all of the small and large obstacles presented when working on an innovative project.



Josh Knighton

Mechanical Engineering student with minors in Robotics and Economics. Looking to work in aerospace or robotics after graduation. Able to pick up new skills quickly and eager to learn. Enjoys reading in spare time.