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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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    A Safe Productive Jobsite is One with Good Communication

    Nov/19/2019

    When asked about an opponent’s plan for an upcoming match, former champion boxer Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

    Tyson’s commentary on the sometimes fleeting and precarious nature of planning doesn’t just apply to the boxing ring. Every utility

    jobsite should start with a plan. But many jobs can face the unexpected — things like changing ground conditions or machinery breakdowns — that can cause plans to change, meaning completion requires straying from the original strategy. Qualified, experienced workers are often good at adapting to changes in conditions.

    It’s that ability to respond quickly and effectively to an abrupt change in plans — like a punch in the mouth from Mike Tyson in the first round of a championship boxing match — that contractors and their workforce should try to embody. Good communication is key to adapting to change.

    “Tailgate talks”

    Frequent and deliberate discussion among contractors and workers is a vital step to help maintain a safe, productive jobsite. Though sometimes overlooked, the opportunity to talk about the specific tasks of the job at hand, what was learned from the previous day’s work and any potential stumbling blocks that could impede progress is one that every crew should take. It’s often best done at the beginning of a work day as a “tailgate talk,” according to Vermeer Product Safety Engineering Manager Darin Dux.

    “On a jobsite, contractors are constantly reviewing the tactics of meeting their objectives, figuring out how they’re going to set up everything and proceed with the work, and making sure a job is progressing as planned,” Dux said. “They’re asking questions like, ‘Do we have all the right equipment on site?’, ‘Is the equipment in proper operating condition?’ and, ‘Do we need to adjust our setup?’ You rarely know everything that’s going to happen on a jobsite, so you need to know how to adapt if things change abruptly.”

    Regular communication addresses the progress in how well those types of questions were answered on past jobs and lays out plans for how workers can do an even better job of doing so on future jobsites. Dux recommends including these types of topics during every “tailgate talk”:

    • Evaluate past challenges and successes. “It’s good to go through and review how things went the day before. Think about what went well and the day’s challenges,” Dux said. “Review those things not only from a safety standpoint, but how work progressed throughout the day.”
    • Provide learning opportunities. Regular communication can help make training more effective by not only updating crew members how that training is progressing, but also giving all workers the opportunity to share the “best practices” that work for them. “Workers typically develop best practices to get things done efficiently, safely and effectively on the job,” Dux said. “It’s an opportunity to share those wins.”
    • Establish strategy and tactics. A morning discussion among contractors and workers can help lay out a game plan for the day’s work, ensuring each team member knows their specific responsibilities. “We want everybody on the same page to start the day, then they can re-evaluate progress later on to gauge their progress and determine if they need to change tactics,” Dux said. “The more intentional this kind of communication is, the more efficient and safe an operation is going to be.”
    • Identify any hazards and review safe practices. Review the work plan to identify any risks workers may be exposed to that day. “A review of the day’s planned work, the equipment to be used, and the conditions likely to be encountered paves the way for safety,” says Dux. “A thorough review and understanding of any new equipment’s operator’s manual must be done prior to operation. This not only assures safe operation but helps get the most out of the equipment.”

    Identify a communication leader

    Whether your jobsite has a clear, defined foreman or chain of command, it’s important to have someone to lead communication efforts. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires a “competent person” be on each jobsite who is “capable of identifying existing and predicting hazards in the surrounding or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous or dangerous to employees, and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.”

    Any jobsite OSHA regularly inspects is required to have a competent person, and that crew member is often a good choice to lead communication efforts in addition to his or her OSHA safety duties.

    “It’s somebody that is the organizational person who communicates safety information. Well-run jobsites all have something in common, and it’s having someone in charge of adhering to industry best practices,” Dux said. “Having one person like this gives other workers a specific go-to person if they have any questions or concerns. It also helps foster good hazard communication in the event of any unforeseen circumstance.”

    That hazard communication is of paramount importance on every jobsite and a key component of determining who is the right person on each jobsite to take the lead.

    “Most jobs are marathons, not sprints. You’ve got to approach all communication deliberately and intentionally,” Dux said. “The most important thing you can do is go home after a day’s work in the same condition in which you arrived. A lot of injuries are caused by people getting in a hurry. They think they’re doing the right thing by working as quickly as they can, but often don’t really understand the full extent of the hazards they could face. It’s important to have a reliable person who can make sure everyone stays safe and gets the job done well. All of this involves having good jobsite communication.”

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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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    Steps to Help Prevent a Utility Strike

    Nov/11/2019

    In 2017, U.S. and Canadian contractors and others on excavation jobsites experienced work interruptions, struck utility lines or had a “near miss” with underground lines on a jobsite more than 400,000 times total. More than 316,000 of those utility strikes damaged either the utility lines themselves, excavating equipment on the jobsite or both.

    Of the damage included in the most recent Common Ground Alliance (CGA) Damage Information Reporting Tool (DIRT) report for 2017, 52% were the result of “insufficient excavation practices.” Almost 1/4 of all utility strikes CGA reported were the direct result of the contractor or excavator operator failing to notify the nearest one-call center that designates the location of subsurface water, gas and electric lines prior to excavating.

    These utility strikes are costly — with North American costs reaching into the billions alone — but initial utility line damage is just part of the cost equation. Specialists at the University of Birmingham School of Civil Engineering in Birmingham, United Kingdom, estimate total costs — including “indirect and social costs” — to be nearly 30 times the initial direct repair and cleanup costs of a utility strike.

    Make the call

    Preventing utility strikes starts with a universal first step: Estimate the location of buried utilities before any excavation begins. Contact your nearest one-call system that can clearly mark the approximate location of underground water, gas, electric, sewer and other utility lines. Call811.com provides details on one-call systems throughout North America, as well as guidance for homeowners, contractors, farmers and ranchers on how to best begin the underground line location process.

    While one-call systems are effective for most public utilities, there are other underground utility lines that may not be located by systems like Call811.com. Private utilities such as electric service to an outbuilding or a gas line to a swimming pool may exist. For this reason, the property owner must be consulted as well as any utility owners not listed on the one call ticket.

    Other tools, practices

    When suspected but unmarked utilities need to be located, other means may need to be employed. A sewer inspection crew can locate unmarked structures like cleanouts and underground drain pipes and downspouts. Tools like ground-penetrating radar and subsurface maps can help estimate the location of underground structures not located by the one-call process. People with knowledge of and experience with the conditions in which you’ll be working make up a big part of a strategy to help minimize the chances of a utility strike.

    Plan ahead

    Once underground lines are estimated and marked, the next step is to carefully organize the jobsite to minimize the chances of a utility strike. Prior to digging on the jobsite, inspect the surroundings for any visual clues that may indicate a buried utility line which has not been located. Review the one-call ticket to determine if all affected utility owners have marked their utilities. The exact location of utilities must be determined when the excavation is near the estimated location. Always use soft excavation tools such as hand tools or a vacuum excavator until the exact location of the utility is known.

    Stay alert

    Even though utility lines have been marked, it’s important to stay watchful on the jobsite once excavation begins. Sometimes, lines are not marked accurately, or unexpected additional lines are discovered. If you encounter additional lines, stop working and determine whether it’s necessary to contact your nearest one-call system.

    Leverage experience

    Finally, take steps to help prevent a utility strike on your next jobsite by carefully auditing both your workforce and equipment to make sure you’re equipped to minimize the chances of a utility strike on the next job. That includes follow-up education after you’ve experienced a “near-miss” on a past job: What equipment and personnel were deployed when it happened and how did you prevent a strike? Employing strategies based on that kind of experience can go a long way to preventing costly and potentially dangerous utility strikes in the future.

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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 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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    Miller Pipeline Helps Customers Plan for the Future

    Oct/14/2019

    If there’s one thing the people who work at Miller Pipeline know, it’s that nothing stands in the way of progress. Throughout the 65 years the company has been in business, Miller Pipeline has been at the forefront of building and maintaining America’s infrastructure — performing everything from pipeline construction to rehabilitation services for natural gas, liquids, water and wastewater. The need to build, expand, repair and relocate utilities has led to Miller Pipeline growing from a small family-owned business to a company of 3,000 employees with offices in over 20 states. And, the key driver of that growth is their customers' pursuit of progress.

    In Miller Pipeline’s early days, the installation of gas transmission pipelines drove the business. While gas transmission is still a significant part of the work the company does, helping natural gas customers maintain their underground network of pipelines represents a substantial portion of their business now.

    “As pipelines age and cities expand, there is a tremendous amount of work to be done to support our natural gas utility customers,” said John Gregor, horizontal directional drilling manager for Miller Pipeline. “I believe a major reason why our customers choose to work with us is that we’re a company that embraces and expects progress. We’ve demonstrated that by the machinery and methods of installation that we perform, the tools we use to assist crews and the way we work with customers to plan for future growth of their own.”

    What Gregor is referring to is Miller Pipeline’s commitment to being an early-adopter with many of the latest industry technologies and making investments to better understand how new technology can benefit their customers. “We got into horizontal directional drilling early because we recognized the immediate benefits,” he said. “Now, we operate an extensive network of horizontal directional drilling crews. And, as the HDD market has matured, we’ve been quick to embrace many of the tools that can help us plan better and avoid other buried utilities.”

    Adopting HDD planning tools

    Gregor and his team initially started bore planning many years ago using the Vermeer Atlas Bore Planner® computer software system. Also, when Vermeer Projects Suite was introduced, Miller Pipeline was one of the first to try out the new system. “Bore planning software and hardware have come a long way from those early days,” said Gregor. “The tools available today not only simplify the process of planning a bore, but it also makes it much easier to give a customer as-built information when a job is complete.”

    Many of Miller Pipeline’s gas distribution teams use the Vermeer Projects productivity tools in the field for planning and for creating as-built bore profiles for customers. “A significant amount of our customers are required to keep as-built information on file, which means our team is required to create bore profiles,” Gregor said. “The old way of doing it with a measuring wheel and record book, and then having to input into a CAD program — it was time-consuming and not as accurate as the new technology.”

    “With a mobile phone or tablet running the Vermeer Projects app and the Trimble R1 GNSS receiver, our guys can walk the bore path, insert tie-down points of reference, insert depth information and mark the location of other utilities in the fraction of that time. Then they can give our customers as-built information in any format requested,” continued Gregor.

    Bore planning

    Gregor estimates that his team has created hundreds of as-built bore profiles since starting to use Vermeer Projects productivity tools.

    He also personally uses Vermeer Projects during the bore planning process. “Most of the time, our utility customers will provide us with a bore plan before a project starts, but there are a few customers that rely on my team to create the plan,” he explained. “In either case, Vermeer Projects comes in handy because we can walk the bore path with either a locator equipped with GPS and a smartphone or tablet with the app to map the bore. During that process, we verify rod-by-rod radius and mark any located utilities. From there, if a plan has to change, we can provide detailed information about why a plan needs to be adjusted. Also, it helps our bore crews because they have easy-to-read rod-by-rod information to help them as they execute the bore.”

    As-built documentation process

    Hunter Miller is a construction assistant with Miller Pipeline working out of the company’s Denver, North Carolina, office, and it’s his job to assist several major natural gas utility companies in the area and drill supervisors overseeing installation work. Miller has been with the company for just over three years, and in that time has been one of the primary people, along with co-worker Greg Moore, documenting as-built bore profile information.

    “It’s our policy to capture data for any bore over 100 feet (30.5 m) or any bore that crosses a state road,” said Miller. “As of now about half of our natural gas utility companies are asking for the information, but we expect that number to increase as more become aware of the capabilities of new technology we use, like Vermeer Projects.”

    With more than 25 crews working out of the Denver, North Carolina, location and many more Miller Pipeline teams working around the region, Miller and Moore are responsible for documenting a lot of bores. “We like to try to get to a site before a bore is complete, but that’s not always possible,” explained Miller. “So, we will often stop by a jobsite soon afterward to document the information. The process is pretty straightforward. We use a tablet and a Trimble R1 receiver to walk the path and insert utility depths for the bore profile. We will also make notes where a bore intersects with another utility and the depth of the existing utility.”

    Using the captured GPS information, Miller will then use Google topography to create as-built bore profiles. From there, the bore profiles are stored in Miller Pipeline’s system and provided to the customer.

    Resources for future planning

    “Having the GPS location of the pipelines for our customers is a huge benefit for them and other utility contractors,” explained Miller. “Utility strikes involving natural gas lines, high-voltage power and even fiberoptics can be disastrous. Having the ability to locate buried utilities using GPS will help avoid strikes in the future. It will also help when a line needs to be relocated or repaired.”

    On the topic of relocating utilities, Miller said their crews in the area have recently seen a lot of gas lines being moved because of expanding roadways. On one recent project in Concord, North Carolina, he was called out to create the as-built bore profile as gas lines were being moved for a road-widening project. “The area around the local hospital will likely continue to see growth, so to help crews working in the area in the future we also included tie-down information in our as-built documents,” he explained. “We try to do this in areas where there are several utilities and future growth is expected. With that information, they can measure the distance from a tie-down to find the location of the buried utility. It’s easy to enter this type of information into the Vermeer Projects app, and we know it will either help us or another utility contractor in the future.”

    Future of bore mapping

    As an early adopter of the latest industry technology, Gregor and Miller both agree that the usage of bore planning and mapping tools like Vermeer Projects productivity tools can be extremely useful for utility contractors to integrate into their operations. To help streamline the way their company is collecting GPS information, Miller Pipeline is in the process of upgrading its crews to HDD locating equipment to the Falcon F5® locating system with built-in GPS. Soon, crews will be able to transmit GPS coordinates, depths, tie-downs and the specific coordinates of nearby utilities while the job is happening. The captured information can then be uploaded into Vermeer Projects where it can be altered and shared with a customer either from a computer, smartphone or tablet.

    “As more utility companies incorporate this type of technology into their business, there’s just no telling what the future of the underground construction market can look like,” said Miller. “We’ll be able to do a better job of planning for new projects, be able to better track the age and condition of existing utility and reduce the risks of hitting buried utilities.”

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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, Navigator and Atlas Bore Planner are trademarks of Vermeer Manufacturing Company in the U.S. and/or other countries. DigiTrack and Falcon F5 are trademarks of Digital Control, Inc. Trimble is a trademark of Trimble, Inc. Google is a trademark of Google, LLC.

    © 2019 Vermeer Corporation. All Rights Reserved.