Editor’s Log: HDD Initiatives At UCT

There was a time, back in the 90s, when the horizontal directional drilling market was a huge segment of the annual Underground Construction Technology International Conference & Exhibition. Since then, UCT has grown to truly encompass all aspects of the underground marketplace with construction and rehabilitation of sewer and water systems topping the list.

Mix in heavy doses of gas distribution, telecom and electric along with various underground utilities technologies all receiving their fair share of attention.

The introduction of the RehabZone almost 13 years ago was one of the most important events for not only UCT, but the entire rehabilitation market. This generic program replete with interactive, informative displays, live demonstrations and hands-on activities provide learning activities like no other available in the industry today.

One of the early drivers in UCT’s rise to relevance was the horizontal directional drilling explosion in the late 90s. Factories were churning out drilling rigs at an amazing pace and support companies were cropping up and flourishing in every niche of the HDD market. Every contractor had to have an HDD rig. As fast as a new rig was introduced, it was just a matter of months before a major technology improvement made the rig obsolete. But in 2000, the bottom fell out of the telecom market – the principal driver of HDD’s incredible prosperity. Subsequently, HDD’s meteoric rise to prominence made an even faster dive to despair.

But the technology was proven. Applications to virtually all underground markets were established and HDD’s niche was forever carved into the marketplace, albeit at a much slower pace to recovery.

That recovery has arrived. The HDD market is currently enjoying unprecedented levels of popularity and status as the favored construction method for telecom (again), electric, gas distribution and water. It has even gained a significant foothold in the sewer market. Various niches are discovered and developed on a regular basis. It seems like every week I hear of a new, innovative use for HDD.

Of course, the primary diver for the boom in mid to large HDD work has been the energy market. It has been well-documented how the shale gas/oil markets in often rugged, inaccessible terrain have come to rely upon HDD as the best construction solution for pipeline infrastructure and transportation.

While HDD is back as a substantial growth market, it subsequently is experiencing issues and needs reflective of that market. To that end, UCT, in cooperation with its many industry partners, is launching a massive expansion of its UCT program, almost doubling in size. The program will contain important information that drillers can retain and utilize almost immediately in their operations – both in the field and the business office.

But there’s much more than just education for operators, owners and engineers. The extremely popular HDD contractor roundtable begun last January will be held again. It is a format where peers can discuss industry issues, concerns and needs among companies of all sizes and from every corner of the country.

Another new HDD initiative will be the inclusion on the exhibit hall floor of the DrillZone – an interactive, hands-on area where contractors, engineers and owners can try their hand at tracking a borehead; where they can sit in the cabin of a big rig and figure out how it works; and learn how mud mixing becomes a practical reality rather than voodoo. It will be a place of excitement, education and fun.

As has been proven in the past, nobody embraces and understands HDD like UCT. This will be the most dominating and comprehensive program of its kind. It is a major program for experienced drillers and newcomers as well as for operators and owners. The UCT HDD initiative is a focus put together by the industry, for the industry, and is guaranteed to be rewarding to your business and operations.

The market is changing at breakneck speed. Join us at UCT to embrace the bright future of HDD.

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