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

While gravity sewer installation still represents a challenge for contractors due to tight line and grade tolerances, it can be accomplish via a variety of methods and systems currently on the market. But for pressure pipe, HDD is a ready-made solution that is increasingly being utilized and is reflected in market growth.

The “other” category jumped again in the 2013 survey to 5.5 percent. Geothermal continues to grow along with countless other niche applications. The fact is, potential HDD work is limited only be our imaginations.

For any directional driller, the more effective operational life they can get out of a rig, the more profitable the company can become. Before replacing or rebuilding a rig, survey respondents said they generally are able to get 3,662 hours of operation from mini drills, 4,956 from mid-sized units and 6,700 for large rigs.

Not a lot of changes were reported in the use of various types of pipe materials. HDPE was still the most commonly used pipe in conjunction with HDD, being utilized on 41.8 percent of projects followed by PVC at 22 percent, steel at 16.8 percent, ductile iron at 12.5 percent and other pipe types accounting for 6.9 percent of the market.

Used rig market

A by-product of longer rig life is the proliferation of the used HDD drilling market. Several companies have delved into that market for many years. But it has been primarily just since the turn of the century that rigs, lasting longer due to many factors, enabled contractors to begin seeing used rigs as viable products, not unlike a traditional back-hoe. Subsequently, a more mature market has seen demand for used rigs explode. In fact, 55.5 percent of the survey respondents have purchased used rigs. For their next used rig purchase, 57.7 percent of contractors indicated they would be shopping for a mini rig, 23.1 percent a mid-sized rig and 19.2 percent would be seeking a rig over 100,000 pounds. Truly, the used rig market covers all niches.

The two largest rig manufacturers in terms of unit volume, the Charles Machine Works (Ditch Witch) and Vermeer Corporation, each purchased market-leading used rig marketing companies over the past two years. This has greatly facilitated their dealers’ ability to work with customers on trade-in rigs.