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    Making sense of HDD drilling fluids, Part 3

    May/16/2019

    Making sense of HDD drilling fluid additives

    Drilling fluid, or mud, is an essential part of the horizontal directional drilling (HDD) process. It involves learning how to properly mix drilling fluids and calculating how much drilling fluid you need on a job to determine what type of drilling additives you should be using.

    In case you missed it, part one of this series, “Making sense of HDD drilling fluids” covered why drilling fluid is essential to HDD and the mixing processand part two explained how to calculate reamer pullback drill rates.

    In part three of three, you will learn how to determine which drilling fluid additives you should use, based on soil type.

    Overview for deciding which additive to use

    To begin, identify what type of soil conditions you will be drilling in. The conditions will help you determine what type of additives you need. For example, in non-reactive clay, you will likely need a mixture of bentonite, which helps produce needed cutting carrying capacity to flush the bore hole, and a lubricant to keep soil from sticking and bit balling to your tooling. However, when you’re working in reactive clay, sand or cobble, you may need a polymer additive.

    There are several types of polymer additives to choose from, each engineered to help you deal with specific soil conditions. PAC polymers are typically added to a bentonite mixture to help provide secondary filtration control (sands and cobbles). In formations with high concentrations of reactive clays, PHPA polymers are used in place of bentonite. PHPA polymers help prevent clay from swelling by wrapping itself around the clay. A larger molecular weighted polymer is a good match for cobble and rocky conditions because it acts as a suspension aid and helps create a stable bore path and assists with extracting larger cuttings from the bore path.

    Use this chart to help you determine which drilling additives you should use in various soil types.

    General drilling fluid products and function

    Non-Reactive Clay
    Bentonite Primary filtration control (filter cake)
    Soap/Detergent Keep tooling clean
    Reactive Clay
    Bentonite Primary filtration control (filter cake)
    PAC polymer> Secondary filtration control
    PHPA polymer Prevent clay swelling
    Thinner (only if excessive viscosity) Thin out viscosity from polymers
    Soap/Detergent Keep tooling clean
    Sand
    Bentonite Primary filtration control (filter cake)
    PAC polymer Secondary filtration control
    Larger molecular weight polymer Suspension aid polymer
    Cobble
    Bentonite Primary filtration control (filter cake)
    PAC polymer Secondary filtration control
    Larger molecular weight polymer Suspension aid polymer
    Rock
    Bentonite Primary filtration control (filter cake)
    Larger molecular weight polymer Suspension aid polymer
    Fracture Rock
    Bentonite Primary filtration control (filter cake)
    PAC polymer Secondary filtration control
    Larger molecular weight polymer Suspension aid polymer

    Mixing it all together

    Always follow your mix system operating instructions, typically start with bentonite and be sure you’re sending it through the venturi and hopper at full throttle. You want to get the maximum implosion the first time through the venturi to mix the product well. After enough bags of bentonite are mixed through, continue mixing for approximately 10 more minutes until it’s thoroughly broken up and hydrated.

    If you plan to add a polymer, you need to wait until the bentonite is entirely mixed, usually about 10 minutes. Adding a polymer too soon or out of sequence could cause the bentonite to ball up in the tank, rendering it ineffective. Always add a PAC polymer before a PHPA and dry polymers before liquid polymers.

    For more tips on mixing, revisit part one, of this series, or part two to determine how much fluid you need.

    Where to find help

    If you’re not sure about the soil conditions you’re going to be working in or if you have questions about which mixing additives you should be using, talk to your local Vermeer dealer. They can help you determine what other contractors are using in the area. Also, be sure to follow the directions on the side of the additive bag or container to determine the correct amounts.

    ###

    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, 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.

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    Making sense of HDD drilling fluids, Part 2

    May/10/2019

    Calculating reamer pullback drill rates

    Operating a horizontal directional drill (HDD) is a bit of an art, but it takes science to help be successful. Science is at the heart of the drilling fluid that runs through the drill string, helping with downhole stability while cooling and lubricating tooling, as well as helping extract drill cuttings. 

    This series, “Making sense of HDD drilling,” will help you and your crew be successful on the job. The first post of the series, Why drilling fluid is essential to the HDD and the mixing process, explained why drilling fluid is important, how to measure fluid viscosity and the mixing process.

    This article will walk you through how to calculate reamer pullback drill rates, a critical component to determining how much drilling fluid you will need to help have a successful bore.

    Determining fluid amount needed

    The volume of fluid you should use depends on hole diameter and soil conditions. Vermeer recommends the following for HDD rigs up to 100,000 lb (444.8 kN). (Remember, the reamer is 1.5 times the size of your product up to 9 inches [22.9 cm]. For product 10 inches [25.4 cm] and larger, the reamer is 1.3 times larger.)

    Next, you will need to calculate the soil safety factor by determining the ratio of fluid pumped to soil conditions.

    Armed with the information from these charts, as well as your drill rod length and your drill rig's pump output, you can now calculate the reamer pullback drill rate.

    For example, if you were going to use a Vermeer D20x22 S3 Navigator® horizontal directional drill to do a 300’ (91.4 m) bore in sandy clay and pull back a 4” (10.2 cm) gas line behind a 6” [15.2 cm] reamer, you should be using around 44 gal (166.6 L) of fluid per rod (1.47 gal/ft [18.26 L/min] x 10’ [3 m] x 3 divided by 25 gpm [94.6 L/min] = 1.76 min/rod x 25 gpm [94.6 L/min] = 44 gal [166.6 L]). Each rod is 10’ (3 m) long, so you will use 30 rods for the job, which means you’ll need approximately 1320 gal (4996.7 L) of fluid for the project.

    Performing this calculation before a project begins will help with the estimating and planning process.

    Crews can sometimes try to get by with less fluid than what is truly needed. This practice can cause drillers to outrun their drilling fluid. This means your fluid-to-soil ratio is too great and becomes too thick to pump out of the exit/entrance pit. The result of the pudding effect can be an inadvertent return due to lack of flow underground. The ground can heave, product being installed can stretch and tooling can be damaged. Your tooling could also potentially get stuck underground.

    Using too much fluid or product is wasteful and can create excess cost. However, don’t assume that inadvertent returns are always the result of using too little fluid. Inadvertent returns can also be caused by using the wrong type or amount of fluid additives.

    By calculating reamer pullback drill rates, you can help make sure you’re using the right amount of fluids on every job. If you have any questions, be sure to contact your local Vermeer dealer.

    Up next

    In part three of this series, you will learn about different types of drilling fluid additives.

    ###

    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. 

    Vermeer, the Vermeer logo and Navigator are trademarks of Vermeer Manufacturing Company in the U.S. and/or other countries. Mincon is a registered trademark of the Mincon Group plc.

    © 2019 Vermeer Corporation. All Rights Reserved. 


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    Fiberoptics Create Opportunities in Colorado

    Apr/23/2019

    The massive undertaking of delivering high-speed internet around the country is about more than giving people faster access to information. In rural America, it’s about creating viable employment options in small communities and helping their citizens prosper.

    The North Fork Valley on the Western Slope of Colorado is one of those rural, close-knit areas benefiting from the expansion of fiberoptics. For over 120 years, the area’s coal mines have been the main employers for the people living in the area. However, in the last several years, mines in the area have started shutting down, significantly impacting the people living in these coal communities. Forced to look for new occupations, the expansion of America’s vast fiberoptic infrastructure is helping many of those people stay in their homes and is even helping some communities grow.

    Meet the Neals

    Eric and Teresa Neal, owners of Lightworks Fiber & Consulting, LLC have lived in the North Fork Valley most of their lives and are good friends with many of the people impacted by the reduction in coal mining. In fact, after running his own small fiber splicing business from 1997-2009, Neal took a three-year hiatus to work at one of the area’s coal mines.

    “Coal mining provided stability for a lot of people for years,” Eric Neal explained, “but the fiber/telecom industry was always something that I enjoyed doing. So, when an old customer approached me about doing some fiber testing and splicing around the fall of 2011, my wife and I decided it was the right time to get back into the business, and we started Lightworks Fiber & Consulting with our son Dakota Coats.

    The new family-owned company started small, primarily picking up where the old company left off — doing fiber splicing. However, Neal knew that if they didn’t focus on growing the size of the company and expanding the number of services they could offer customers, Lightworks Fiber would never be anything more than a subcontractor of a subcontractor. He wanted more.

    “Subcontracting is hard, honest work, but we were always at the mercy of a project’s general contractor,” Neal explained. “Planning for that kind of work can be challenging, which can really hold a company back from growing. We focused on building something bigger, so that we would be the one that gets the contracts.”

    Starting with just four people doing fiber splices for cell towers, Lightworks Fiber got its first big break around 2014, when the company won a contract to place cable from Omaha, Nebraska, to Kansas City, Kansas. The Neals hired an additional 42 people to help with the work; bringing the company’s headcount to 60.

    Lightworks Fiber also won a contract to start running fiber to homes in the North Fork Valley around the same time, which led to an equipment fleet expansion. Neal said they added a small Vermeer trencher, followed by a Vermeer PTX40 plow/trencher, and then a Vermeer XTS1250 ride-on tractor and two Vermeer V8550 trenchers as they picked up more mainline installation work.

    Growth Spurt

    Unfortunately, as work was picking up for the Neals, the family’s friends and neighbors that worked at the coal mines were being laid off as several local mines were being forced to close due to the rise of other energy sources. Lightworks Fiber was in need of help, and according to Neal, he knew the work ethic of most of the miners he had spent time with would translate well to the fiber industry. “We hired a bunch of people in our first big growth spurt and continue to add individuals as we’ve ramped up to 130 employees,” he added. “Many of the people we hire didn’t know a lot about telecom, but they were willing to learn and do the work.”

    Today, more than 90 percent of Lightworks Fiber’s workforce have ties to mining, and the team works throughout the United States. The company’s services include duct placement, blowing and pulling fiber, fusion splicing and testing. Also, the team just recently got into horizontal directional drilling.

    “Since opening our doors, we talked about getting into directional drilling, but we knew we needed to have the right person to get us started,” Neal explained. “We found that person when we hired Larry Daniels. He’s been operating drills for 35 years.”

    HDD Creates New Opportunities

    Lightworks Fiber purchased two horizontal directional drills a little over a year ago — a Vermeer D24x40 Series II Navigator® horizontal directional drill (HDD) and a Vermeer D16x20 Navigator® HDD. The demand for HDD work quickly grew from there, and the company has since also invested in two Vermeer D20x22 S3 Navigator® HDDs and a Vermeer D10x15 S3 Navigator® HDD.

    Lightworks Fiber has all of its drills working near its main office in Hotchkiss, Colorado, and the state’s Western slope. The project that is keeping his crews busy right now is a 32,000’ (9,753.6 m) fiber installation project. Teams are using the Vermeer D20x22 S3 with Mincon air hammers to work their way through the area’s hard rocky ground. After the pilot bore is complete, they are pulling back Vermeer hole openers to expand the boreholes before pulling back 4” (10.8 cm) fiber conduit.

    “We’re drilling in a lot of rock on this project, which is challenging,” Neal explained. “We’re finding that the tooling we use makes a major impact on how productive we are in these conditions. Our representative with Vermeer Colorado has done a great job of helping us identify exactly what we need for tooling It’s really helping us stay on schedule.”

    Bringing Fiber Home

    For the Lightworks Fiber team, the most rewarding part of their job is bringing high-speed fiber to the North Fork Valley. The local Delta-Montrose Electric Association (DMEA) created the company, Elevate Fiber in June of 2016 and set an ambitious goal of bringing fiber to valley residents. Lightworks Fiber is handling the bulk of the installation work using its fleet of drills. Neal said it’s some of the most important work they are doing as a company.

    “Mine closures had a huge impact on the small towns in the area,” Neal explained. “From the people that worked at the mines to the other small businesses and companies that helped support mining operations, everyone was affected. While we’ve been fortunate enough to bring jobs to some of those individuals, high-speed internet is creating even more opportunities. For the first time in years, our communities are growing. People from the metro area have more flexibility about where they want to live, and they are choosing the valley. We’re proud to be a part of it all.”

    The DMEA fiber project is expected to continue for a few more years, and Lightworks Fiber has several other projects happening thanks to Neal’s industry connections. With a customer list that includes companies like the Zayo Group, Facebook, DMEA and Shell, Eric and Teresa Neal hope to continue to create employment opportunities for their friends and neighbors.

    ###

    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 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 and Navigator are trademarks of Vermeer Manufacturing Company in the U.S. and/or other countries. Mincon is a registered trademark of the Mincon Group plc.

    © 2019 Vermeer Corporation. All Rights Reserved. 


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    Efficient Operations: Horne Brothers Construction Growth Spurred by Solar Power

    Nov/19/2018

    The last three years have been pivotal for the solar industry as new solar energy facilities are being constructed across the United States. Public utilities and commercial solar companies are leading the charge, expanding the solar industry as the construction of new solar farms increases significantly. The need for speed is essential in today’s energy market due to the Solar Investment Tax Credits (ITC) being reduced after 2020 and new concerns over tariffs impacting the cost of solar modules and steel.

    The solar division of Horne Brothers Construction, Inc. is thriving in today’s hot market. Based in Fayetteville, North Carolina, the division has expanded from around 30 employees to over 400 in just three years. The highly specialized company handles everything from driving piles and installing racking and modules to land clearing and erosion control.

    According to Horne Brothers Executive Vice President of Solar, Tom Kosto, being attentive to the needs of their customers is what has driven their growth. “Many of the companies we work for started in the solar industry around the same time we did, and as their needs expanded, so did our services,” he explained. “They’re working on multiple projects all over the country and by virtue, so are we.”

    Keeping busy in Texas

    While Horne Brothers have projects happening all over the country, Texas has been the hotbed of activity for the company over the last two years. Kosto said last summer his team was working near Sherman, Texas, constructing five new solar farms that produce approximately 75 megawatts (75,000 kW) of electricity. This year, Horne Brothers is working around Sherman, Greenville, Waco, Wallace, Warren and Beasley. “We’re working our way toward Houston, and when we wrap up the last one, we’ll have completed 100 megawatts (100,000 kW) this year in Texas alone,” Kosto added.

    The majority of the work is being done for the same customer; Cypress Creek Renewables. As one of the nation’s leading utility and community-scale solar companies, Cypress Creek Renewables has worked on more than 250 projects and has 2.3 gigawatts (2300 mW) of solar facilities currently deployed across the United States. The company is responsible for developing, financing, constructing and operating each of the facilities.

    The relationship Horne Brothers has formed with Cypress Creek Renewables has proven to be advantageous for both companies as well as the communities where each project is being located. “Cypress Creek Renewables continues to grow, just like we do, but the number of jobs created doesn’t stop there,” Kosto said. “Each project has a need for local labor during construction, and sustainable new revenue streams are created in every community. Solar is a huge win for everyone involved.”


    Efficient process

    Texas isn’t the only place that Horne Brothers has crews working. The company’s workforce is spread out across the nation, working at 30 different solar farm sites. “In 2017, we installed 800 megawatts (800,000 kW) across 5,600 acres (2,266.2 ha), and we’re on track to do more this year,” Kosto explained.

    To get all of the work done, Horne Brothers rely on specialized teams to perform different phases of the job. A land-clearing crew is usually the first team in on most new jobs. They are responsible for clearing brush and trees. After the perimeter is cleared, the next team comes in with dozers and graders to verify the site has proper drainage and controlled erosion. Once that phase is complete, construction of the module racking can begin.

    “The first phase of installing racking is driving the piles that will support all of the necessary racking components,” Kosto said. “It can be a pretty involved process. For example, on the average 14-megawatt (14,000 kW) site, we’ll have to drive approximately 4,500 piles into the ground, and the spacing between each one has to be exact. Our team has it down to a science. In fact, it’s one of the fastest phases of any job.”

    The Horne Brothers solar division operates more than 35 pile drivers with the Vermeer® PD10 pile driver representing the majority of its fleet. “To be efficient at this phase of the project, we prefer to have between two and six units on any given job,” Kosto commented. “The Vermeer PD10’s compact design allows us to get multiple units on a trailer, which helps cut our transportation costs and saves time.”

    On the jobsite, Kost sees the Vermeer pile driver’s operator controls, auto plumb and GPS integration essential to his pile driving team’s efficiency. “These features make it much easier for our people to get on and off a job faster and with precision accuracy when it comes to spacing the racking,” he added. “In turn, that makes our racking crew’s job go more smoothly. They don’t have to worry about pile spacings being off.”

    Horne Brothers’ racking team moves in after the pile driving crew moves out. They lay out and construct the racking. Another team then comes in, mounts the solar modules, and then the electrical work is done by another contractor. Afterward, Horne Brothers sends in a crew to seed the site and make sure everything is ready to go. From there, the sun is ready to do its job.

    Picking up extra work

    The efficiencies of Horne Brothers’ pile driving team and equipment has allowed them to pick up extra jobs in the areas where they already have crews working. “We tend to do everything on a project, except for electrical work,” Kosto explained. “But there are also a lot of solar companies that hire out different contractors to perform each part on a job. We keep the Vermeer PD10 pile drivers working on those types of projects as well. We put a lot of hours on them, and they stand up well. They are also compact and lightweight compared to other pile drivers on the market, which makes a difference when transporting them and helps to minimize ground disruption on the job.”



    Importance of equipment and partnerships

    Breaking each solar project into phases and using separate crews to complete the work has helped Horne Brothers work efficiently. “It’s important for each team to understand every step of building a solar farm, but each crew member doesn’t need to know how to do all of the tasks involved on a project,” Kosto said. “Using multiple crews on a job allows our people to be more focused which has helped ensure we’re delivering a quality end product for customers, cost-efficiently and as quickly as possible. This approach is a big reason why we do so much repeat business with our public utility and commercial solar customers.”

    Another contributing consideration for Horne Brothers overall efficiency is the equipment manufacturers that they choose to do business with. According to Kosto, these manufacturers’ dealer networks are a primary factor in those decisions.

    “While solar is going strong right now in Texas, North Carolina and South Carolina, there are many other states that we have crews working in, which is why it’s so important to choose equipment that has support, wherever we go,” said Kosto. “Also, since many solar farms are installed in rural areas, we need equipment partners that can support us even in more remote parts of a state. We get that from Vermeer and its dealer network. No matter where our crews are working, we know we’ll receive a high level of service and parts support.”

    Predicting the future

    While the present marketplace for solar energy is bright, tariffs and the phasing out of tax credits is a significant concern for the people that make their living in solar. Kosto explained Horne Brothers has experienced 40 to 50 percent growth year-after-year for the last three years but is concerned that market uncertainties may impact projects in the future.

    “Many of the solar farms we’re constructing today have been in the works for a year or two,” Kosto said. “For the industry to continue to grow, there needs to be stability in its future, and that means being able to keep costs in check. Our process and the equipment we use has helped us operate lean and efficiently, but material pricing could impact solar energy production costs soon, which could reduce solar energy as being as successful as it is today for energy companies.”

    Kosto, along with the other 250,000+* individuals who work in the solar industry, hopes that trade agreements get settled, and they can continue to develop clean, renewable jobs for Americans.

    ###

    *According to the Solar Foundation’s 2017 Solar Job Census Report

    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 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.

    © 2018 Vermeer Corporation. All Rights Reserved.