Frozen Sand Provides Directional Drilling Challenge

Contractor Installs Radiant Heat System Under Cold Storage Facility
June 2009 Vol. 64 No. 6

What acts like solid rock, but really isn’t rock and is located in the heart of the Midwest? That’s a good question, and Tim Huttmann with TH Construction Company, based in Omaha, NE, knows the answer.

Huttmann recently installed a radiant heat system under a 512 foot by 1,100 foot cold storage facility in Kansas City, MO. While the obvious question is why would a cold storage facility want to install a radiant heat floor, the answer proved quite simple.

The old radiant heating system was installed when the cold storage facility was constructed in 1990. Heat from the compressors dispersed through clay tiles that ran under the building. As compressor technology improved, so did refrigerants that didn’t produce as much heat. Eventually, the clay tiles didn’t have enough warm air flowing through them and many froze shut or broke. The lack of radiant heat resulted in excessive heaving and buckling of the cold storage facility floor during the freeze and thaw periods common in the Midwest.

The soil under the facility consists mainly of sand. When factoring in the frost line that runs close to 28 feet deep directly under the cold storage facility year round, the result is a ground structure that resembles some of the toughest rock formations.

This isn’t the first time Huttmann has taken on this type of a project, but it is the largest he’s ever tackled.

“We’ve completed a number of projects like this under buildings, but this was by far the largest and most difficult,” says Huttmann. “In fact, we’ve never dealt with ground conditions like this before, so it was a lot of trial and error.”

128 bores to go

The project involved installing the radiant heating system under one half of the cold storage facility. This required Huttmann to bore 128 holes each measuring 550-feet long with four feet of spacing between each hole.

Huttmann – not knowing exactly what it would take to bore through the frozen sand – decided to conduct test bores in advance of the project starting date. He arrived on site with his Vermeer D100x120 Navigator horizontal directional drill and a Vermeer MX240 drilling fluid system. Huttmann soon discovered the ground was going to be more difficult than anticipated.

“As we moved toward the center of the building the ground conditions became much harder,” says Huttmann. “In fact, we tested five different drill heads before we found the right combination that gave us consistent production. We also found out the D100x120 provided a higher water flow than was needed and decided to use our new Vermeer D36x50 Series II Navigator drill instead.”