15th Annual Horizontal Directional Drilling Survey

While Bumps In The Road Continue, Overall HDD Industry Presses Ahead
By Robert Carpenter, Editor | June 2013, Vol. 68, No. 6

An Arizona respondent summed up his company’s biggest challenge in two words: “Still rock.”

The disposal of drilling fluids remains a major industry challenge, especially in certain states with restrictive policies such as New York, complained several contractors.

For many respondents, however, continuing education is key for the growth and survival of the long-term HDD market. “I really believe that the future of HDD hangs with educating and getting the information into the hands of the decision makers, the city managers and engineers,” related this West Coast-based contractor. “I have been very aggressive in doing presentations for groups of engineers and most recently for the city of Portland, OR, Water Works, I also met with 20 different water districts in California and was quite surprised that most did not know what HDPE pipe was and that you could pull in ductile iron with HDD as well. If we do nothing they will continue to open trench because it is what they are comfortable with.”

Big is better?
Rig sizes continue to adapt to an ever-increasing market evolution. No doubt the shale gas and oil boom has prompted many contractors to increase the size of their rig fleet with mid to large unit additions.

But demand for larger, more challenging applications has spread much further than energy. HDD use in the water market is becoming common place along with all types of pressure pipe applications, including sewer. Even gravity sewer installations have seen a marked increase in the use of directional drilling though understandably at a much slower rate. However, while companies continue to introduce products aimed at the gravity sewer market, it is still a tedious and challenging process.

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As the HDD evolution continues, the challenging projects have become routine; the once-believed impossible projects, merely difficult. The industry continues to gain experience in virtually all imaginable market niches, no matter how narrow.

That’s not to say risk has been eliminated. Indeed, the survey reveals a general feeling that many contractors, especially those newer to the industry, often fail to conduct a proper risk assessment and thus undercharge or fail on a project. That leaves a bad taste for the owner and sometimes creating a barrier to market growth.

With the various HDD market landscapes continuing to change, most contractors (77.1 percent) believe competition is increasing as more seek the greener grass of directional drilling.