20 Years And Still Rocking

By Traci Read, Managing Editor | August 2013, Vol. 68 No. 8

Since the inception of horizontal directional drilling (HDD) in the late 1970s, there have been remarkable advances in the technology and equipment that serves the trenchless construction industry. The equipment in the early 1980s was basic and not designed specifically for HDD, nor was it particularly reliable.

However in the late ‘80s, things changed rapidly. Major manufacturers who had previously concentrated their efforts on the oil and gas drilling industry realized there could be an untapped new market for rigs, drill pipe, downhole equipment and drilling tools and started to produce equipment specifically for the HDD market, forever changing the face of that young industry.

It was in this environment in 1993 that Brent Lane, James Agnew and Frank McKenney (now retired) founded INROCK Drilling Systems Incorporated. Now known simply as INROCK, the company has grown consistently from a start-up to a global HDD leader by emphasizing innovative, quality technologies and solutions with sales, service and operations facilities in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, The Netherlands and Latin America. The company’s administrative and manufacturing headquarters are in Houston, TX. Later this year, the company will host an open house – one for clients and another for vendors – to mark the completion of its new office expansion in Houston that will add nearly 8,000 square feet to its existing 20,000 square feet, coinciding with the company’s 20th anniversary celebration.


INROCK’s roots date back to the mid-1980s, when Lane, Agnew and McKenney got involved with horizontal drilling while working for Smith International, a supplier of products to gas and oil production and exploration companies. Smith merged with Schlumberger in 2010.

“It was during the downturn of the 80s when Smith International’s business faltered due to declining oil prices that we were tasked with finding new technologies and applications that could be explored to enhance their core offerings,” says Lane. “That’s when Frank, Jim and I literally stumbled on HDD.”

Lane went on to explain that by introducing rock drilling that could be used in the large rig HDD arena, they were instrumental in helping Smith grow that part of the business until the oil and gas business picked up again. However, once that happened and there was no longer a pressing need to expand in new markets, company officials wanted to focus on their core business, not HDD.

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