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Horizontal directional drills Archives

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    Find the Right Drill for Your Next HDD Job

    Dec/09/2019

    Drilling in rock up to 10,000 pounds per square inch (1129.9 Nm) in hardness, rock drilling systems for single-rod machines are qualified for most horizontal directional drilling (HDD) operations. Above 10,000 pounds per square inch (1129.9 Nm), however, the demands on the machine and tooling call for a different kind of downhole power.

    But the right drill is just one component of a successful HDD job. Knowing the makeup of the rock you’ll encounter downhole can help identify which HDD machine and downhole tooling will be right for your jobsite, both in terms of cost and productivity.

    “The specific rock you’re drilling in and how many passes you’ll make through that rock will help determine the rig size you need to operate,” said Vermeer Lifecycle Product Manager Jason Zylstra. “Cost of operation and the time frame for getting a job done also contribute to which machine you decide to use.”

    Whether adapting an existing rig to include an air hammer or mud motor, or purchasing a dedicated dual-rod machine, many contractors have found success in diversifying their operations to take on rock projects. How can you determine which option is best for your next HDD job? Here are a few characteristics of each type of machine that can help with that decision.

    Air hammers

    These machines work similar to a jackhammer, only with a blunt-nose bit featuring carbide buttons. Air hammers are effective in HDD applications in rock with a compression strength of 18,000 pounds per square inch (2033.7 Nm) and above.

    Air hammers employ repeated concussion to break up solid rock to a flowable form. One drawback with air hammers is the availability of adequate power equipment; a large compressor is required to power an air hammer, and they’re sometimes in short supply in many areas. And, large compressors can add to the cost of a job completed with an air hammer.

    Mud motors

    Mud motors use high-pressure drilling fluid to independently power a downhole tri-cone or polycrystalline diamond compact (PDC) bit. Because mud motors tend to require a larger amount of drilling fluid than other types of machines, they’re often paired with a reclaimer on the jobsite.

    Mud motors are often rented and frequently rebuilt, which can help reduce maintenance for the contractor.

    “The drawback of mud motors is that they’re mostly limited to larger rigs, 60,000 pounds (27,215.5 kilograms) and above,” Zylstra  said. “Renting is an attractive scenario for many contractors. If everything goes right, it’s easier to understand any potential drill head maintenance needs.”

    Dual-rod machines

    Dual-rod systems use two independently controlled drill rods, one within the other, during operation. When in pilot bore mode, an outer rod provides rotation for steering, while an inner rod provides rotational torque to the tri-cone or PDC bit. Among rock-focused drilling systems, dual-rod machines can be a very versatile option. They are qualified for conditions ranging from mixed rock to solid rock.

    Although, air hammer and mud motor machines can be the better option in operations with hard, highly compressed rock formations.

    “In rock drilling, dual rod is the jack-of-all-trades and has the most utility across the spectrum of high-pressure HDD operations,” Zylstra said. “It’s going to have some limits to its productivity in extreme environments, but there’s a huge swath of conditions in which a dual-rod machine is going to be the most suited for the job.”

    Contact your nearest Vermeer dealer or consult with a Vermeer drilling or tooling specialist to find out which machine is best for your next HDD job.

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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 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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    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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    Mud Matters: Using Drilling Fluids

    Jul/15/2019

    Many horizontal directional drill (HDD) operators have heard a story or two about someone completing a massive bore while drilling dry or using only water. Those stories may be true, but there can be many drawbacks to boring this way. Drilling dry or using water alone can slow drilling production, put a bore at risk of failure and lead to premature tooling wear.

    Drilling fluid or mud is a crucial ingredient to maximize an HDD crew’s efficiency and should be used whenever possible. It helps provide lubrication and cools downhole tooling and electronics, helps maintain the integrity of the bore path and flushes drill cuttings. Here’s an overview of a few of the issues you may encounter without using mud.

    Drilling dry

    “In ideal ground conditions, performing short, small-diameter bores without any fluid is possible,” explained Tod Michael, product manager for the trenchless core products at Vermeer. “However, even in these conditions, drilling dry will typically require rotation speeds and production rates to slow. There is also a lot more friction downhole, which can cause tooling to heat up. The extra heat can potentially damage the drill head and sonde.”

    Over time, the lack of drilling fluid can lead to premature wear to the drilling head and drill pipe. It can also put unnecessary strain on the product being pulled back. “Just using a little bit of drilling fluid in ideal ground conditions can go a long way to help keep up production rates and help contractors maximize the life of their tooling,” added Michael.

    Water only

    Probably more common than drilling dry, contractors will skip using bentonite or polymer and only run water through the drill string. Michael said this is a better option than using nothing at all, but there can be risks involved with this approach. “Crews doing just a pilot bore and then pulling back small-diameter product can get by with this in loamy clay soils, since those situations are a lot more forgiving,” he explained. “However, using drilling fluid with the right additive can help limit the risk of the hole collapsing.”

    Water offers very little lubrication, which means there is more drag and friction on drill rods and the drill head. “Adding some type of additive to the water will help reduce the risk of premature tooling wear,” Michael said.

    Also, water lacks the viscosity to maintain hole integrity or float drill cuttings out of the hole.

    Mix it up

    There are numerous benefits to using drilling fluid with every bore, but to get the maximum benefit from the additives, it should be adequately mixed. “Whether contractors are buying bags of bentonite or have made the switch to liquid drilling additives in pouches, using a mixing system is crucial,” said Michael. “With powders, you can see if an additive hasn’t been properly mixed. However, with the newest prepackaged liquid concentrate additives, sometimes people think they can pour it into the water tank with minimal stirring. Proper mixing and testing of your fluids should still be done for the best results.”

    To help with the mixing process, Vermeer offers several mix systems, appropriately sized for the directional drill your crew is running. The latest addition to the line is the Vermeer MX300 mixing system, and it features a redesigned, slim rectangular profile tank and a power unit that can be paired with up to two tanks at one time to help decrease the time spent refilling fluid tanks.

    To drill as efficiently as possible and get the efficient performance from your downhole tooling, use drilling fluids. Also, if you need a little help educating your team about the proper ways to mix drilling fluids, check out the article "Making Sense of HDD Drilling Fluids."

    For more information about the Vermeer MX300 mixing system, talk to your local Vermeer dealer.

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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 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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    Choosing the right installation method for underground utilities

    Jun/07/2019

    Trenching versus plowing and what is microtrenching?

    Whether an underground crew is installing fiberoptic, conduit, cable, electrical, gas or water lines, choosing the right installation method is imperative to helping maximize productivity. While estimating a project, contractors should ask themselves, “what’s the right installation method for this project?”

    According to Ed Savage, product manager at Vermeer Corporation, there has been a significant shift toward horizontal directional drilling in the utility industry, but there are still many instances where open-cut methods including trenching, plowing and microtrenching, are a more cost-effective and efficient method. “For many contractors, the installation method they utilize is driven by the equipment in their fleet,” Savage explained. “While specializing is good for contractors, adding additional installation services can help grow their business.”

    Savage goes on to say while many contractors consider the various open-cut methods to be very similar, several factors should be considered before choosing one way over another. Those considerations include:

    • Ground/Soil conditions
    • Installation depth
    • Size and type of utility
    • Existing infrastructure

    Pros and cons of plowing

    “For direct bury or small poly conduit in soft/loamy soil conditions, a vibratory plow is typically the fastest installation up to around 42 inches (106.6 centimeters) in depth,” Savage explained. “The product is usually installed in a single pass, and there is a lot less restoration work required afterward.”

    However, there are limits to just how much a vibratory plow can do. Savage says there are some plows that can go deeper than 42 inches (106.6 centimeters), [up to 48 inches (121.9 centimeters)], but the soil conditions have to be ideal and the size of the tractor required to pull that deep may make it a less-efficient option at that point. Plows also have a more limited trench width than trenchers.

    Pros and cons of trenching

    Trenchers come in a broader range of sizes, adapt better to various applications, can dig deeper and handle a wider range of soil types than vibratory plows. “While trenching will work in a greater range of environments and project types, the overall process takes longer than plowing,” Savage said. “Trenching jobs require more restoration work after the product is in the ground and contractors may need to bring in additional equipment to complete that portion of the job.”

    Savage added that trenching is an excellent option for utilities that need to be set on-grade and have a large diameter.

    What about micro or nano trenching?

    These methods work well on fiberoptic or small conduit jobs because they are often more cost-effective and can take less time than other installation methods. A micro or nano trencher is used to open a narrow and shallow trench in an asphalt roadway, usually in the seam between the asphalt road and concrete curb/apron.

    “In many cities, the underground right-of-way is becoming crowded,” Savage said. “Micro or nano trenching allows contractors to avoid other utilities, and future repairs to damaged lines can be easier to access.”

    Making the right choice

    Some jobs utilize only one installation method, but ground conditions can fluctuate, and installation depths can vary. For projects like these, Savage said contractors shouldn’t limit themselves to just one method. “The right method is the one, or sometimes two methods, that allows a crew to maximize productivity while still maintaining the highest safety standards,” he added. “That may mean a crew uses a vibratory plow for the majority of a project, but uses a trencher in more challenging soil types or a horizontal directional drill to go under roadways.”

    When choosing between trenching, plowing, micro/nano trenching or drilling, understanding the installation options available can help lead to better decisions and a more successfully completed job. To learn more about your options, reach out to your local Vermeer dealer, or visit Vermeer.com.

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

    © 2019 Vermeer Corporation. All Rights Reserved.