Hydro Excavation Eases Fiber Optic Cable Installation At Wyoming Oil Storage Facility

October 2008 Vol. 63 No. 10

Installing a half mile of underground fiber-optic cable isn’t an unusual job for telecommunications contractor Americom Technology Inc. But when a maze of oil pipelines crisscrossing the cable route adds complexity, difficulty and possible danger to an otherwise routine project, Americom turns to hydro excavation technology to get the job done quickly and safely.

Americom faced this situation recently at a large oil storage facility in Ft. Laramie, WY. Despite the buried pipelines and other underground infrastructure, Americom completed the project in just eight working days, using a Vactor HXX Hydro Excavator to trench more than a football field’s length each day without disrupting or damaging any of the underground installations.

The project included installing, terminating and testing more than 2,500 feet of high capacity fiber optic cable to enable remote control and monitoring of various valves and pumps at the Ft. Laramie tank farm. Americom’s Project Superintendent Pat Berkholt said the excavation depth ranged from 24 to 30 inches to maintain a safe distance between the cable and the underground oil pipelines.

“Hydro excavation gives us some important advantages on these kinds of projects,” said Randy Hawks, operations manager for Salt Lake City based Americom Technology. “In fact, for a job like this one at the oil depot in Wyoming, there’s no other choice. Excavating with a backhoe would be crazy, with the high likelihood of a pipeline strike. Digging by hand would take more than a month, which is expensive and still somewhat dangerous given the situation.

“Using a hydro excavator is much safer and more efficient than any other method. Digging with pressurized water almost eliminates the risk of damaging any pipes in the ground. And vacuum excavation removes the material while you’re digging, which helps the operator see what he’s excavating. For this kind of application, you can’t beat what we’re doing with the hydro excavator in terms of safety, speed and performance.”

Excavated material that is vacuumed into the Vactor HXX unit’s 12 cubic yard debris tank may be backfilled into a completed utility trench, stockpiled on the job site, or taken off site for disposal or reclamation. A high capacity, 1,300 gallon water tank feeds a variable volume, 10 gallon per minute water pump to keep the hydro excavator on the job for long periods without needing a refill.

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