2009 A Bumpy Road But Bright Future Awaits HDD

11th Annual HDD Survey
By Robert Carpenter, Editor | June 2009 Vol. 64 No. 6

Another contractor from the same region emphasized that “due to economic pressure, 2009 is going to be a tough year – everyone is lowering their prices just to get the work.” A Southeastern contractor suggested that “there is absolutely no way these companies can do the work for the prices they’re quoting. We’ll see some companies go broke.” A Southwest contractor pointed out that “people who began late and borrowed heavy are distressed to the degree that they are drilling at greatly reduced prices. This not only distresses the industry overall, but uses up their equipment without allowing for replacement.”

The industry continues to evolve and develop. Though the frequent quantum technology leaps in the basic rig structure has tapered off, refinements and enhancements continue to make rig operation for all sizes more efficient and productive, and the learning curves much shorter. Technology jumps are now coming from tooling and electronics. For example, several new mid to large rig tracking and positioning systems have been introduced over the past five years. For smaller rigs, Digital Control released its new F2 tracking system based upon a three-dimensional field view last January. In April, Ditch Witch announced its new laser system for achieving line and grade drilling which they are hoping willfacilitate HDD growth into the sewer market. These types of technological advancement serve to further develop and diversify HDD markets. “As suburbs grow and congestion continues, trenchless methods (HDD) answer too many questions not to thrive,” concluded a Virginia contractor.

That 2008 was an eventful year for HDD is an understatement, particularly for the large drill market which was being driven by the energy sector. Less than a year ago, the price of oil was rushing towards $150 a barrel and natural gas was hitting $13 per Btu. Large rig companies were bidding projects two years away. There was no end to the people and companies trying to enter this perceived lucrative market. Some entered the market with carefully crafted business plans; too many jumped in without a net.