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

As much discussion as there has been regarding contractors bulking up their fleets for projects requiring more pullback and torque power, the fiber optic market remains strong even though stimulus dollars are all but used up. AT&T was the latest major provider to announce plans to further expand their fiber-to-the-premises networks. This type of work is frequently accomplished with HDD equipment but requires smaller units that are easy to transport and set-up, plus ideal for short shots of 100 – 500 feet. Manufacturers have been adding new products or revamping exiting products to fill this steady niche. Subsequently, average bore lengths for small rigs dropped from 354 feet to 279 feet.

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For mid-sized rigs, bore lengths stayed about the same at 632 feet per bore. However, large rig drilling increased substantially from 1,040 feet to more than 2,000 feet per average bore.

Market composition
The HDD market composition remained relatively similar to the past two years though there were subtle but tell-tale shifts in market shares. For example, as the telecom stimulus packages finally played out in 2012, a small shift downward in market share resulted for the industry. However, while a telecom “dip” was widely forecast by industry experts for 2013, the market has showed remarkable strength and continues to be a robust niche – even without stimulus investments. Telecom accounts for about 22.6 percent of the HDD market.

Gas distribution is another market whose HDD share has decreased slightly. Several years of recession have just now resulted in slight increases in the housing market and manufacturing output. This is an industry that while already very busy with maintenance and integrity management work, stands to experience a major boost in new installations over the next few years – assuming the economy regains its health. For gas distribution, HDD accounted for 19.7 percent of the market, primarily in new or replacement projects.

Steadily creeping up in market share are the water (16 percent) and sewer (9.1 percent) markets. HDD is widely accepted now as a viable installation method for water. While HDPE has always been popular because being able to fuse pipe into a long string suitable for pullback, PVC pipe has made great strides as well with fusible pipe and restrained joints. Count ductile iron as another common water pipe material that has a joint system suitable for HDD work. All these advancements will continue to drive HDD as a key construction element of the water market in the future.

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