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

Defining the fleet
Another major indicator of the continued overall strength of the HDD market comes from ownership numbers. For those contractors operating primarily small rigs, they own an average of 3.7 rigs per company. For those who also own/operate mid-sized rigs, generally in addition to small rigs, their fleets typically include 1.8 medium rigs. For contractors focusing on big rigs, they typically own 2.4 units.

The age of the HDD fleet provides an interesting dynamic. While the number of rigs operating that are more than 10-years old continues to increase (15.7 percent), so does the number of rigs that are less than two-years old (17.1 percent). While on the surface that may seem confusing, in reality is makes perfect sense when reflecting overall market conditions. For some time now, the hardware of HDD rigs has remained relatively stable, more durable and advances have concentrated on drive systems, tooling and electronics. Plus, manufacturers were going through a crash engineering period in the 1990s and early 2000s as they were still learning what worked best in the field. Those manufacturers that survived the telecom crash have learned how to make long-lasting, high quality rigs. Contractors are simply able to get more out of their units for longer periods of time.

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On the other hand, market growth over the past few years, substantially fueled by telecom and energy, continues to drive contractor expansion and subsequently increased buying habits. That dynamic was reflected in the number of rigs in the two to five year range. Last year 43.5 percent of rigs were five to 10 years old and 26.6 percent two to 5 years of age. But in 2013, all the recent purchases by existing contractors joined with newcomers have resulted in several years of buying new equipment. Now, 40.7 percent of rigs fall into the two to 5-year-old category while 26.5 percent are five to 10-years of age.