13th Annual Directional Drilling Survey: Mixed Market Recovery For HDD

By Robert Carpenter, Editor | June 2011 Vol. 66 No. 6

Expanding opportunities
Diversity of directional drilling applications has been vigorously pursued by pioneering HDD contractors for several years. These efforts grew out of necessity (the result of the fiber optic market crash in 2001) and out of a sincere desire to broaden their markets and find new, practical applications and market niches. “Sure, the last couple of years have been tough,” admitted a Southeast contractor. “But we’ve worked hard to grow our HDD business into many different markets. We’ve always been alert as to exploring new applications. That has helped us tremendously and allowed us to weather the recession in pretty good shape.”

This Alaska contractor agreed, saying their firm has benefited from “increasing applications” of HDD work.

Another part of the HDD success equation has been the broader acceptance of the technology across the underground market. While initially a method used primarily in the energy and telecom markets, HDD has made steady progress in proving its applicability to other areas of underground piping installation. “HDD appears to be getting stronger due to engineers designing work with HDD and environmental issues with open-cut procedures,” observed this Indiana contractor.

Another contractor predicted that “as fuel prices rise, deep trenching will be replaced by cross country directional boring.”

Several survey respondents predicted there would be little change or improvement in the HDD market in the near future. “The market for directional drilling should remain about the same for the next several years – I do not see many changes with the housing market and the economy,” stated this Midwest contractor. A Louisiana contractor concurred: “I see it (the market) staying the same considering the economy.”

The unknown economic future continues to inhibit the HDD industry, says a Northeast contractor. “The current work load is not as stable as it could be. The long term looks a little unstable and needs to be better budgeted to develop a level of comfort for contractors.”

In Arizona, a contractor pointed out that “the near and long term will mirror the economy from here on out since the promise of federal money, be it RUS, SRF funded projects, or road projects, are tapped out.

“The adaptation of HDD and other trenchless technologies continues to climb,” he observed. “However, since it presents a potential for costs savings, we are getting more and more requests to come see if directional drilling is a potential solution on many projects -- so much so that we will probably add another medium sized rig.”