Shale Plays Boost Track Trencher Market

May 2012, Vol. 67 No. 5
A Tesmec trencher on a shale project in the Northeast.

“With discoveries in Wyoming, Colorado and South Texas, the overall shale play possibilities in North America may very well be greater than previously imagined, and we are manufacturing bucket wheel and mechanical trenchers to meet the ever growing demand for both the sales and short- and long-term rental needs of our industry. We have developed alternative such as rent-to-purchase options, short- and long-term rentals, fair-market-value leases and programs with skip-payment options.”

Lifetime work
Vermeer’s Chris Lynch said many contractors view the energy shale areas as being “generational” plays -- the work is expected to continue for generations.

“Work in the shale gas plays absolutely is generating business for Vermeer,” said Lynch. “There was about four years of exploratory activity, but the past two years have been intense.

“The Marcellus gas play is a very large area covering parts of Ohio, Western Pennsylvania and New York. It has varying soil conditions, some of it really hard. Trenching for gas lines started out with a lot of six-inch pipe about 6-feet deep. Today pipe diameters of 12 to 24 inches are being put in the ground at depths from six to 8-feet.

“Most trenching is being done by chain-type equipment. For Vermeer, it has been the 350-horsepower T855 and 415-horsepower T955 models weighing 80,000 and 110,000 pounds respectively. These machines are about as big as can be transported on highways east of the Mississippi River where restrictions on loads are stricter than in western states.”

This Vermeer trencher digs trench for a new gas gathering line.

Lynch said in the past two to three years, Vermeer has moved about 150 pieces of equipment for energy shale work.

“In addition to open-cut construction,” he said, “there is a lot of directional drilling, because much of the construction is in developed areas and there also are environmental considerations and restrictions affecting excavation.

Most Vermeer customers working in energy shale now operate multiple machines. It seems most will get a job or two, then quickly have two years of work, said Lynch.

“Shale plays in the northeast have created jobs,” Lynch said. “At the dealership level, people have been added to accommodate parts and service demands. Our dealer in Lumberton, NY, is putting in a new service facility nearer to the play area to better serve customers. At Vermeer in Pella, growth in the energy shale business also has required new hires to fill demand.