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Directional drill Archives

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    Extending Natural Gas System to Fenelon Falls

    Dec/16/2019

    In 2018, Enbridge Gas Distribution Inc. kicked off the lofty project of expanding its natural gas system to the Kawartha Lakes, Ontario villages of Fenelon Falls, Cameron and Cambray. The $47 million projects called for 46 kilometers (28 mi) of new pipeline to be laid over the next two years. However, before homeowners and businesses in the area can start using natural gas for heat, Aecon Utilities Inc. must first navigate the area’s challenging ground conditions and work around all the nearby lakes and waterways.

    Aecon Utilities, Ontario’s largest utility contractor, is who Enbridge Gas Distribution called when they first began to plan for this natural gas system expansion. Aecon has an impeccable reputation for their quality of work and on-time performance. On this project, the team would have to use a combination of open-cut and trenchless installation methods to install the new lines. The scenic lakes and varying soil conditions are what dictated which methods the team used on the pipeline’s larger mainlines. In the villages, Aecon would predominantly use horizontal directional drilling (HDD) methods.

    Fleet of drills

    Heading up all of Aecon’s directional drilling projects throughout Canada is Curt Falls, general manager of directional drills and hydrovacs. He started working in the field for Aecon Utilities in 2000 and has helped the organization grow and expand its HDD capabilities during his 18 years of service with the company. Currently, Falls has 33 HDD crews in the field operating drills ranging in size from 4,082.3 to 45,359.2 kilograms (9,000 to 100,000 lb), but the gas pipeline work happening around Fenelon Falls is one of the more challenging projects they are currently working on.

    “A large part of that job is being drilled, and the ground conditions are pretty challenging because one minute we’re in solid rock, then shale or clay,” Falls explained. “Those varying conditions make it hard to decide which drills we should be using. In the past, we typically would use our 45,359.2 kilograms (100,000 lb) drill with a mud motor to drill through the rock. However, it is a lot of muscle for gas lines that are 15 centimeters (6 inches) in diameter or smaller, but the ground conditions have always dictated what size machine a driller needs to use.”

    Discovering a new option

    Around the time that Aecon began planning for this gas pipeline project, Falls was talking to his local Vermeer Canada sales representative, Jeremy Snow, about the ground conditions on the project and a few other upcoming jobs that involved drilling in rocky conditions. During the conversation, Snow suggested that Aecon should consider using a dual rod drill and invited a few members of their team to visit a contractor in Kentucky using the new Vermeer D40x55DR S3 Navigator® horizontal directional drill.

    Using dual rods, the Vermeer D40x55DR S3 can work in a broad range of ground conditions, including rock, clay and loamy/dirt. The unit’s inner rod provides torque to the drill bit, while the outer rod offers steering capability and rotation torque for reaming. This setup delivers powerful downhole cutting action and can give contractors greater tooling flexibility than a drill equipped with a mud motor.

    “We were impressed when we saw the drill in action,” Falls explained. “It has the same size footprint as our Vermeer D40x55 S3 Navigator HDD, but can perform as well as larger drills in rocky conditions. I liked the idea of being able to use a smaller machine in rock because we can transfer everything we need on one trailer. We don’t get that option with larger HDD machines.”

    On the job

    When the members of the Aecon team returned home, they decided to invest in a Vermeer D40x55DR S3 dual rod drill and put it to work

    on the Fenelon Falls gas pipeline project. They purchased a Vermeer RH15 rock drill head to go along with it. Developed in conjunction with the dual rod drill, the RH15 drill head can handle 2033.7 Nm (1500 ft-lb) of inner rod torque for pilot bores without sacrificing steering ability — a combination not often found when using a mud motor.

    Aecon put their new dual rod drill to work this past summer and have been happy with its performance. “It is getting the job done no matter what ground conditions we’re in,” said Falls. Their drill crews are currently working on extending the main gas pipeline and will conquer the job of installing lines to homes and businesses in the three villages after that. Falls said they have planned to keep most of the drill shots to around 240 meters (787.4 feet) long. “After we complete the pilot bore, we’re making one or two passes with hole openers to stretch the hole to 30.5 centimeters (12 inches). Because there is such a variance in ground conditions, every bore is a little different. Sometimes, we can use a 30.5 centimeter (12 inch) hole opener and in some of the rocky grounds, we’re starting with a 25.4 centimeter (10 inch) hole opener and then making another pass with the larger model.”

    Crews are primarily using the RH15 rock drill head in rocky conditions and then swapping it out for a more traditional head in softer soils.

    Stepping it up

    After working their Vermeer D40x55DR S3 for a few months, Falls and his team determined on-the-job production rates of the rig warranted adding a second unit. “We had the opportunity to pick up a second dual rod drill and given the efficiency we saw with the first one, it just made sense. Given the terrain we work in, there aren’t too many projects that we don’t need to drill in rocky soil conditions.”

    Aecon’s second dual rod drill was also put to work on the Fenelon Falls gas expansion project. Falls said having the second basket of dual rods has also come in handy. “We ordered 228.6 meters (750 feet) of rod for each machine and depending on where we’re drilling, that’s usually enough for each bore,” he said. “However, we did wind up having to do one bore that was 400 meters (1,312.3 feet) long. The crew was going under a waterway and to put the tie-in in a good location, we needed to go a bit longer than normal. Drilling it was efficient since we could borrow a few rods from the other machine. Our guys did a great job on that one.”

    Making progress

    After the main gas distribution line reaches the villages of Fenelon Falls, Cameron and Cambray, Aecon will begin the work of installing service lines to homes and businesses in those communities. This is the final step of the Enbridge project. Falls is pleased with the work his team has been able to accomplish in the first year of the project and is looking forward to the next phase.

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    This article contains third-party observations, advice or experiences that do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Vermeer Corporation, its affiliates or its dealers. Testimonials and/or endorsements by contractors in specific circumstances may not be representative of normal circumstances experienced by all customers.

    Vermeer Corporation reserves the right to make changes in engineering, design and specifications; add improvements; or discontinue manufacturing at any time without notice or obligation. Equipment shown is for illustrative purposes only and may display optional accessories or components specific to their global region. Please contact your local Vermeer dealer for more information on machine specifications.

    Vermeer, the Vermeer logo and Navigator are trademarks of Vermeer Manufacturing Company in the U.S. and/or other countries.

    © 2019 Vermeer Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

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    Rent, Lease or Buy: Which is Right for You?

    Nov/25/2019

    Factors to consider the next time you need HDD equipment

    Having the right equipment makes a difference in managing a successful, productive horizontal directional drilling (HDD) jobsite. How you secure and retain that equipment itself — from tooling to the largest HDD machines — can be key to completing a job.

    Job size, duration of use and overall cost are all variables that can contribute to which procurement strategy is most effective. Time is a huge factor; in general, the length of time over which you’re financially responsible for a piece of equipment and how long you’ll be using it on the jobsite help determine which strategy is best, according to Vermeer Sales Manager for Utility Infrastructure Commercialization Lee Schroeder. In other words, identify what you need and how long you need it.

    “The nice thing about purchasing equipment today is you have so many options with financing rates, rental terms and purchase options. We work hard to consider how our customers want to do business, how they manage cash flow and how tolerant they are for risk. Consider these variables when making a purchase decision,” Schroeder said. “This is becoming more important as more contractors start to think in terms of specific operating costs on the jobsite. It should be a high priority today to take machinery costs into account, and we’re seeing more contractors make purchase decisions based on what they need to do to remain successful.”

    In general, the more a contractor commits to ownership of a specific piece of equipment, the lower the overall cost. Outright purchases typically spread the machine’s cost over a longer duration, but it’s a long-term financial commitment. On the other end of the spectrum, a short-term rental agreement may carry a much higher cost, but the contractor may only need that piece of equipment for a much shorter duration, thereby justifying that higher price. Here is an overview of each of the three purchase options — rent, lease and buy — and what circumstances can make each the right choice.

    Rent

    If you have a specific job that requires a little extra horsepower or a specific piece of equipment that you normally don’t use, renting is likely the best option for you. You may pay considerably more but renting helps prevent a long-term financial commitment. You probably still have the flexibility to purchase outright later on, but you’re not bound to a specific long-term time period like when financing or leasing.

    “A rental agreement is a short-term play. You may pay a lot more to rent than you would if you were leasing or buying, but you have a specific goal in mind, you know specifically how you’ll use that equipment and will just pay your tab and be done,” Schroeder said. “You may also be able to sign a rental purchase option (RPO) agreement so you can buy later, with your rental payments going toward the cost of the machine. Many renters wind up moving forward with a purchase.”

    Lease

    When leasing a piece of equipment, a contractor retains the ability to purchase it outright at the maturation of the lease. Prices are usually not as high as when renting, but the financial obligation is often longer in duration. A lease provides the contractor the flexibility to purchase the equipment outright at the completion of the deal, or he or she can return it if it’s no longer needed.

    “If I know I’m going to have work that will require a piece of equipment for the next two years, I can lease it and I’m not necessarily tied to it, but I can buy out the lease if I want,” Schroeder said. “A lease is almost always on a new piece of equipment, whereas an rental purchase option (RPO) might be on a slightly used machine.”

    Buy

    If you have a consistent daily need for a specific machine and have the cashflow necessary to cover initial ownership costs, outright purchases are typically the lowest-cost option for the contractor who’s planning more for the long term. While leases sometimes have restrictions on things like hours of use, outright ownership is free of those variables. But, along with ownership comes the sole responsibility for maintenance, while many leases have specific maintenance schedules to which the lessee must abide.

    “More contractors are thinking in terms of total cost of ownership, accounting for operating costs and residual values,” Schroeder said. “Sometimes an outright purchase is the best option, but they should think in these more specific terms to determine what will make it most beneficial for them.”

    Consider maintenance

    How do you maintain your HDD equipment? Answering that question can also help determine whether you should rent, lease or buy your next piece of equipment. Leases are typically accompanied by a maintenance and service schedule. If overall maintenance and service are high priorities to the equipment you operate, leasing and outright ownership are more viable options than higher-cost rental agreements.

    “The nice thing about a lease is you’re getting a maintenance plan with it. It has more of a service record that shows all of the planned maintenance that has been and will be conducted,” Schroeder said. “And it keeps the machine in optimal operating condition because it’s maintained by the dealership.”

    Think long-term

    When identifying the right procurement option — whether rent, lease or buy — it can be helpful to think in longer terms, as well as what types of jobs you anticipate working on in the time you expect to use a specific piece of equipment. Having the right equipment for the job is absolutely important, but how you retain that equipment can have a major influence on your business’ success.

    “Some contractors will talk about how much they spend per foot to operate on an HDD jobsite, and that is increasingly vital to success,” Schroeder said. “You want to truly know and understand your inputs and outputs on your balance sheet. What is a specific piece of equipment going to cost you? What kind of revenue will it generate for you? You want to make sure you choose the right equipment and secure it in a way that works best for your operation financially.”

    Are you interested in exploring your HDD equipment purchase options? Start by contacting your local Vermeer dealer.

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    Vermeer Corporation reserves the right to make changes in engineering, design and specifications; add improvements; or discontinue manufacturing at any time without notice or obligation. Equipment shown is for illustrative purposes only and may display optional accessories or components specific to their global region. Please contact your local Vermeer dealer for more information on machine specifications.

    Vermeer and the Vermeer logo are trademarks of Vermeer Manufacturing Company in the U.S. and/or other countries.

    © 2019 Vermeer Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

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    The Right Tooling Makes a Difference on the HDD Jobsite

    Jun/24/2019

    Match bits and power to drilling conditions to help maximize jobsite effectiveness

    Getting the job done right can depend on having the right tools, especially in rock drilling.

    The structural integrity of a bore and the productivity and efficiency of rock drilling operations therein can depend on knowing your conditions and pairing the right machine and tooling to those conditions. Different projects are made up of different materials that can challenge both the effectiveness and steerability of a bore.

    Variability challenges

    The soil, sand and rock formations of projects that a drill operator will encounter can be highly variable. These different formations call for different tooling: a bit designed for compacted soil may not perform as well in cobbled or solid rock formations, and bits made for hard rock may not handle soil very well.

    Conditions can change quickly, so it is important to be attentive to the conditions in which you’re drilling, and to apply the right amount of power to the right material with the right tooling and the right fluids for the job, according to Vermeer Product Specialist Joshua Spray.

    “A big challenge can be transitioning out of dirt into rock, then back into dirt,” Spray said. “Once you put certain rock tooling, like an air hammer, into dirt, you may have a difficult time because an air hammer is not meant to drill through that kind of soil. It’s like pushing a telephone pole through the dirt.”

    Planning your bore

    To better understand the specific characteristics of the downhole material of a project — whether that’s rock, clay, sand or a combination — it can be helpful to have core samples tested by a laboratory in which the material’s composition and abrasivity can be tested, helping you to select the right tooling. Past experience with a specific region’s subsoil conditions and composition is also important to account for in selecting the right tooling.

    “Knowledge of the conditions based off of past work done in an area can also be helpful in finding the right tooling for a job,” said Vermeer Lifecycle Product Manager Jason Zylstra. “Sometimes, you can get an idea of what your job will involve by understanding the conditions and area where a drilling has been done before. Local Vermeer representatives have a lot of knowledge about specific drilling conditions as well.”


    Different tooling options

    Boring through soil and sand, as well as rock — whether solid or cobbled — requires different tooling, which also can dictate the required pressure and cutting force of the selected bit. Some rock formations, like sandstone, are softer but have higher abrasivity, while others are harder but have lower abrasivity.

    With rock up to 10,000 psi (13,558.2 Nm), a conventional drill combined with different tooling options can offer flexibility. The Armor® drilling system from Vermeer includes different bit options that are specifically designed for a range of common conditions an operator may encounter. The Lance™ bit features a scoop design but has carbide buttons and hardfacing that helps enable it to perform in both hard soils and cobble. On the other end of the spectrum is the Gauntlet™ bit. With carbide hardfacing and buttons to help minimize wear resistance and replaceable carbide-tipped teeth for cutting, the Gauntlet bit is more suited to drilling in medium rock, shale or caliche ground conditions.

    Medium and harder rock formations, 10,000 psi (13,558.2 Nm) and up, may require one of several options beyond conventional drills and tooling. Air hammer, mud motor and dual rod (DR) machines like the Vermeer D40x55DR S3 Navigator® horizontal directional drill offer high pressure capacity and tooling that can handle both hard formations and those with high abrasivity.

    Tricone bits can be well-suited for fractured rock and function well in a wide variety of conditions in a mud motor or dual rod system. Polycrystalline diamond compact (PDC) bits use synthetic diamonds on the cutting edge that make them well-suited to hard, solid rock but may not work as well in fractured conditions.

    Matching the right bit type to your material and conditions is important, but so too is operating with the right speed and pressure to enable the selected bit to function optimally. “Regardless of the bit type you choose to operate, it is very important to know how to manage rotation speed and torque, as well as thrust, to help maximize your productivity on the jobsite,” Spray said.

    Learn more about your options and find the right tooling for your next HDD job at borestore.com.

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    Vermeer Corporation reserves the right to make changes in product engineering, design and specifications; add improvements; or discontinue manufacturing or distribution at any time without notice or obligation. Equipment shown is for illustrative purposes only and may display optional accessories or components specific to their global region.

    Please contact your local Vermeer dealer for more information on machine specifications.

    Vermeer, the Vermeer logo, Armor, Lance, Gauntlet and Navigator are trademarks of Vermeer Manufacturing Company in the U.S. and/or other countries.

    © 2019 Vermeer Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

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    Texas Pipeline Contractor Expands with Horizontal Directional Drilling

    Jun/17/2019

    Scott Andrews, owner of S & J Contractors of Winnsboro, Texas, has been working in the pipeline industry for 30 years. During that time, his company has weathered through lean years and prospered during boom years. Andrews believes there is a natural ebb and flow in the industry and the best way to get through the peaks and valleys is having a team that can handle every aspect of constructing a pipeline, including doing a good job of allocating people and equipment on current projects.

    Today, S & J Contractors employs more than 160 highly skilled individuals, who on a daily basis can be found doing pipeline construction, compressor installations or plant work. The company is a full-service operation from digging ditches, stringing pipe and welding to clearing right of ways and restoration work. In fact, until recently, the only thing S & J Contractors would even consider subbing out is horizontal directional drilling (HDD). That all changed in the last year when Andrews recently made a significant equipment investment so S&J Contractors can offer their clients a turnkey solution.

    According to Andrews, his company is no stranger to doing trenchless pipeline construction installation. “We used to run several large maxi rigs until around a decade ago when there was a dip in work in Southern Texas,” he explained. “We leaned up a bit as a company and decided that HDD was an area we could use a subcontractor on if we needed to. We did, however, continue to invest in a few smaller HDDs for doing smaller-diameter bores.”

    An increasing workload for HDD work in Oklahoma and New Mexico has led S & J Contractors back into larger-diameter trenchless work within the last year. “We’ve had a lot of drilling work coming in lately that has had some pretty tight deadlines; we just couldn’t afford to be waiting on subcontractors,” Andrews explained. “So, I gave my friend, Ray Miller, with Vermeer Texas-Louisiana a call to see how quickly we could get a horizontal directional drill and reclaimer on our jobsite. He got us what we needed, and he got it all done quickly.”

    Andrews invested in a new Vermeer D100x140 S3 Navigator® horizontal directional drill and a Vermeer R250C reclaimer. The equipment combination, along with building a team of experienced operators and locators helped S & J Contractors quickly transition to begin doing large-diameter pipeline boring projects on their own.

    Deploying an HDD crew

    S & J Contractors’ HDD crew got to work after adding the Vermeer HDD and reclaimer on several boring projects in Texas and New Mexico. After that, they made their way up to Oklahoma to help with a new pipeline system being constructed by Valiant Midstream, LLC that would span Hughes, Coal and Atoka counties and portions of Pittsburg, Pontotoc and Seminole counties. In total, the Valiant system will have approximately 150 miles (241.4 km) of pipeline when completed.

    On this project, S & J Contractors was the HDD subcontractor — an unusual role for the full-service company. Leading the crew was HDD supervisor, Derl Stringer, who has served in many positions during his 15 years with the company. “Even though we didn’t run larger maxi rigs for a few years, this new Vermeer HDD was pretty intuitive to transition to,” he explained. “The controls are just like the ones on smaller Vermeer HDDs, which helped us to be productive right out of the gate.”

    Battle rock and weather

    To get the new pipeline up and running, all of the contractors working on the new line needed to work as efficiently as possible. Adding to the tight timeline was an unseasonably high amount of rainfall and challenging terrain.

    Most of the bores that S & J Contractors were responsible for were right outside of McAlester, Oklahoma. “We’re extremely familiar with the area, so we knew the ground conditions we would be operating in were rock and sand, but it was the weather that was unexpected,” said Stringer. “There were days where the whole area was flooded and many other days where drilling was about the only type of work that could be done. Through it all, we managed to stay on schedule.”

    S & J completed several bores around the area, drilling 20-inch (50.8 cm) mainlines, 16-inch (40.4 cm) branch lines and a few 8-inch (20.3 cm) lines. Drill shot distances ranged between 300 and 1,400 feet (91.4 – 426.7 m).

    The hard rock and sandstone to clay and sand ground conditions were challenging for the crew to navigate. “There aren’t too many flat spots in and around McAlester,” explained Andrews. “In some areas, the grade can change up to 40 percent almost instantly. In those areas, drilling makes a lot of sense. We also set up and bored under several creek beds.”

    Dialing in the perfect setup

    The demanding soil conditions meant that using a drilling fluid motor on the Vermeer D100x140 S3 Navigator HDD is essential. After completing the pilot bore, the S & J Contractors crew would typically make up to three passes with various-sized hole openers. “On the 20-inch (50.8 cm) lines, we would start with an 18-inch (45.7 cm) reamer, then step up from there,” said Stringer. “The final pass was usually with a 30-inch (76.2 cm) reamer.” 

    Choosing the right tooling was straight forward compared to getting the drilling fluid mixture dialed in correctly. “One minute we would be drilling in solid rock and then pop out the other side in sand,” Stringer explained. “We had to keep a real close eye on things and make adjustments to the mixture as we went.”

    The crew was running around 150 gallons per minute (567.8 L/min) of drilling fluid and used the Vermeer R250C reclaimer to help reduce the overall amount of water they used, as well as reduce the amount of drilling additives needed.

    “The Vermeer reclaimer helped save us time and expenses,” said Stringer. “I can’t even imagine how much water we would have had to haul in without it. It was convenient to dial in and make adjustments as we changed up our drilling fluid mixture.”

    Andrews also said that using a reclaimer helped reduce their investment in material. “In a lot of these rural areas, we had to add a lot of soda ash, which can get expensive,” he said. “Reclaiming the fluid we use means we’ve been able to use less ash, less drilling fluid additives and much less water. Plus there is much less drilling fluid that we have to haul off after a bore is completed.”

    Documenting bore profiles

    Having operated smaller drills for years, a best practice that Stringer and Andrews have brought to its maxi rig operations is creating as-built bore profiles in the field using their DCI® Falcon F5® locator and Vermeer Projects productivity tools. “Almost every company we work for wants documentation and it’s much more efficient to do it while we’re drilling than to send someone out afterward,” explained Stringer. “We use the locator to mark the bore path and record depths. After the data is collected, I upload it to Vermeer Projects on my computer and can quickly create a bore profile to share with customers either electronically or in a printout. I’m not sure why anyone would do it any other way.”

    Up next

    With every bore completed and documented, the S & J Contractors crew packed up its equipment and moved on to several projects happening in New Mexico. The team’s D100x140 S3 Navigator HDD and R250C reclaimer won’t be the only units working on all the upcoming projects Andrews has lined up there. “We are slammed for time and have a few river crossings lined up, so I reached out to Ray Miller again for help. Within a matter of days, he helped me track down a brand new Vermeer D220x300 S3 Navigator® HDD and a Vermeer R9x12T reclaimer. Now, we’ve got two HDD crews up and running.”

    While it may seem that S & J Contractors have a lot on their plate right now, it’s nothing that Andrews and Stringer haven’t been through before. Experience has taught both of them that when things get busy, having the right people, machinery and tools makes a world of difference.

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    This article contains third-party observations, advice or experiences that do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Vermeer Corporation, its affiliates or its dealers. Testimonials and/or endorsements by contractors in specific circumstances may not be representative of normal circumstances experienced by all customers.

    Vermeer Corporation reserves the right to make changes in engineering, design and specifications; add improvements; or discontinue manufacturing at any time without notice or obligation. Equipment shown is for illustrative purposes only and may display optional accessories or components specific to their global region.

    Please contact your local Vermeer dealer for more information on machine specifications.

    Vermeer, the Vermeer logo and Navigator are trademarks of Vermeer Manufacturing Company in the U.S. and/or other countries. DCI and Falcon F5 are trademarks of Digital Control Incorporated.

    © 2019 Vermeer Corporation. All Rights Reserved.