Design-Build HDD Project Offers Assurance To Owner

By Stephen Tait | November 2010, Vol. 65 No. 11

Mears Group Inc. completed in April a 7,400-foot horizontal directional drilling bore in Jacksonville, FL, a design-build project that allows a regional energy producer to expand its natural gas pipeline to serve new facilities. To complete the project, Mears drilled a 7,400-foot pilot hole 130-feet beneath the St. Johns River bottom to install the 16-inch steel pipe. It is an essential link in a 50-mile pipeline that ends at the Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA’s) Greenland Energy Center.

Though just 1.4 miles of the 50 mile pipeline, the section under the St. John’s River proved the most daunting in planning stages. “This was the biggest obstacle to go from one side to the other,” said Mark Haney, director of engineering for TECO Peoples Gas, owner of the pipeline.

Haney said HDD was virtually the only option to install the pipeline through that area. But project officials said the timing of the project was also a major issue.

Haney said that the pipeline providing service to the power plant will be operational by Jan. 1, 2011. That means JEA was dependent on the pipeline being in place in time to move forward on the operation of the power plant. To help ensure a timely project, TECO hired Mears to complete a design-build project.

“If it is not built on time you literally have a billion dollar power plant there with no fuel,” said John Fluharty, project manager for J.R. Giese Operations, Mears’ sub-consultant that handled engineering duties.

Fluharty says design-build allowed Mears to drill a pilot hole months in advance to pulling product pipe to ensure the project was feasible.

“(TECO) wanted to know that early enough in the process so they would also know if they needed to go another direction,” Fluharty said. “(TECO) wanted a true partnership put together so they could work out all the issues related to this special feasibility hole we did in advance.”

Design-build is relatively new to the HDD industry, Fluharty said.

Design-build offers a subtle but important difference from the typical procedure for HDD projects. In the standard process, a company such as TECO would hire an engineer to develop plans, procure a construction company to implement those plans and then construct the project -- often called design-bid-build. Design-bid-build requires multiple contracts.

With design-build, however, a single company is hired to engineer and to build the project, all under a single contract.

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