We’ve talked a lot in recent years about the “disruptive” influence of horizontal directional drilling upon the underground construction industry. HDD is a technology that has forever changed the way contractors, engineers and owners approach their construction projects.
With its roots in the 60s, it was still the mid-80s before the HDD market really began to thrive. A telecommunications boom in the 90s launched HDD into the forefront of utility installation. A subsequent telecommunications bust saw the market grind to a near-halt while surviving contractors regrouped, retooled and refocused their applications into more diverse markets. Today, telecommunications is going strong again along with electrical work, gas distribution, water pipelines and countless other niche applications never dreamed of 15 to 20-years ago. But clearly one of the primary factors driving current HDD opportunities is the sustained energy market which has helped propel mid and large rig work to new levels of popularity. HDD has absolutely changed forever the face of new installations for underground construction.
The market has evolved, changed and adapted to new industry needs and dynamics. But like any strong, vibrant industry, there are a slew of needs, challenges and problems to be overcome on a regular basis. That’s where the reenergized and expanded HDD focus at UCT comes in.
Last January, Underground Construction magazine hosted a roundtable discussion with several key HDD contractors from different regions of the country and varying sizes of operations. This was a no-pressure, simple exchange of perceptions and perspectives. Towards the end of the discussion, owners, consulting engineers and vendors also joined in the discussion.
The result of those open-forum talks plus follow-up comments was instrumental in the design and launch of a three-part HDD initiative for UCT 2014. For starters, the educational program has doubled in size with topics and program material for all levels of owners and operators and accommodating various skill levels. Another round table open forum is in the works as well.
But perhaps the most exciting new program to result from those discussions last January is the DrillZone, a special area within the UCT exhibition designated as an interactive, hands-on education and information experience for anyone interested in HDD. The concept is that contractors, owners and engineers can obtain a true feel for the many elements and layers involved in HDD, from the basic to the advanced, all while receiving information and asking questions in a non-commercial format. The idea is to create a fun, informational experience for HDD personnel ranging from beginners to veterans.
As of this writing in mid-October, planned demonstrations/displays include:
• Digital Control Inc. — Try your hand at tracking a sonde by using state-of-the-art HDD locating equipment. Job site conditions will be created and this will be an opportunity to put your skills on stage or experience real-world locating challenges. It promises to be a learning experience where you can hone your skills and improve your productivity. Experts will share their knowledge and be available for discussion. Or simply come by to see what’s new in the field of HDD locating.
• Vermeer – Navigator 24X40 rig focusing on how newer software programs/telematics are the future of efficient and productive ops.
• American Augers Hands-On Drill Console Simulator – An authentic replica of an actual large drilling cab with controls will demonstrate what is involved in operating big rigs and the differences compared to small/mid-sized rigs. Or, just see how good you really are at operating a large rig! Operators can view the data and information on the console as the joysticks move.
• Baroid – Three different demonstrations will focus on what actually happens downhole with mud and polymers in a variety of soils. If you thought you understood what goes on downhole, think again!
And more are in development!
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 DrillZone, HDD Educational initiative and Underground Construction HDD Round Table is a focus put together by the industry, for the industry, and is guaranteed to be rewarding to your business and operations.
Join us at UCT to embrace the bright future of HDD.