Remote Trenching Operations

Over the past decade, new technologies have unlocked a tremendous amount of domestic oil and gas reserves and a surge in development is taking place in shale fields of the Marcellus play in the Eastern United States; Bakken in North Dakota, Montana and Southern Canada; and Eagle Ford in South Texas.

Many of these fields are quite remote with no established infrastructure and therefor require installation of pipeline systems to gather and transport gas and oil, distribute fresh water for the fracing drilling process and provide water supplies as well as transporting other products.

The pipeline division of Kingsley Constructors Inc., Asherton, TX, has ongoing trenching operations, much of it in the Eagle Ford fields. Clients include exploration and production companies and midstream companies that gather and transport product.

Due to the remote conditions in the Eagle Ford Shale region, most pipelines are installed with the assistance of large trenching machines.

These pipeline projects require the installation of a variety of types and sizes of pipe. Kingsley’s pipeline division typically installs carbon steel pipe in diameters from two to 16 inches, HDPE pipe from two to 54 inches, and composite and Zap-Lok pipe of diameters from two to 6 inches,” said Daniel Arrant, Kingsley vice president.

“One hundred percent of the Eagle Ford work is in open country,” said Arrant. “Because the Eagle Ford is so expansive, we have to deal with a huge variety of soil types. We see anything from hard rock, caliche, sandstone, sand or dirt. Depending on the job, trench widths range from 14 to 48 inches at depths from four to 10 feet.”

Kingsley employs seven trenchers in Eagle Ford: a Trencor T1060, Trencor T765, Vermeer T1055 and T955 models, and three Astec T560 machines. All are track machines. The company has both rock and dirt chains, but typically operates with rock chains due to the changing soil conditions in South Texas.

“The most important component that we look for in our trenchers is the machine’s reliability and the manufacturer’s service,” said Arrant. “Each trencher tends to have its advantages and disadvantages. One type of trencher may work great in rock conditions but will tend to be slower in good dirt, while others will be faster in dirt but not heavy enough for rock trenching. That being said, to me, the greatest attribute of a trencher is its reliability and quality construction. In addition, the manufacturer’s support of their machines is vital. A trencher breakdown can quickly push a job behind schedule, so access to parts on short notice is a huge advantage.”

Kingsley takes a very hands-on approach to all projects, Arrant continued.

“We prefer to self-perform all portions of our projects, start to finish.” he explained. “In-house trenching requires a full commitment from the company that requires skilled operators, specialized mechanics and permitted truck hauling. While very costly, we believe this commitment is well worth it to be able to completely control the flow of our project. Kingsley takes great pride in meeting mandatory customer deadlines, and our trenching operations are a big part of accomplishing that.”

Trenching crews consist of an operator and spotter with support personnel as necessary.

“The direct support team,” Arrant continued, “is much bigger than the trenching crew and includes mechanics, haul truck drivers, etc. Along with trenching operations are other scopes of work such as preparation of right-of-way, pipe stringing and alignment, lowering pipe into trench, making tie ins, backfilling trench, hydrostatic testing for leaks and site restoration.

Tight timing

A recent project in Asherton, TX, illustrates Kingsley’s capabilities and ability to react to specific client needs. It involved installation of 21,500 linear feet of eight-inch steel high pressure gas line and more than 10,000 feet of HDPE water line. The project owner was a midstream company.

Installing this amount of pipe is routine for Kingsley, but the small window of time to complete the job set it apart from other projects.

“Kingsley was awarded the project the day before a holiday weekend with an absolute operational deadline in only 13 calendar days,” said Arrant. “The project included several tie-ins, loop connections, piping modifications and five directional bores. Despite these challenges, we were able to complete the work on schedule and place the line in service 13 days after being awarded the project.”

Most of the excavation was in dirt with occasional rock. In addition to trenching, two horizontal directional drilling (HDD) machines were used on the project to make five bores ranging from 120 to 285 feet across county and lease roads.

To complete work within this extremely short time frame, Kingsley deployed multiple, closely-coordinated crews.

“If just one detail had been missed, we would have failed to meet the required deadline,” said Arrant. “Our in-house trenching operation definitely contributed to our ability to hit this aggressive deadline. To ensure project completion by our deadline, we went to 24-hour construction operations for the last four days. Our company takes pride in our work and our can-do attitude is evident in the way we approach each project. Accomplishing this goal while maintaining a safe working environment can be credited to our fine company team. Our leaders went above and beyond to care for their men, the project and our company.”

Ninety-nine percent was trenched using three different trencher models: Trencor T1060 and T765 machines and a Vermeer T1055.

Workhorse on the project was the company’s Trencor 1060, a 350-horsepower, 95,000-pound machine that can trench to depths of 10 feet.

“The real benefit of the T1060,” said Arrant is that it can make great production while in dirt, and it is also our best machine for tough rock. That makes it our most versatile machine and it was needed for this project.

Kingsley Constructors was founded 37 years ago by Jon Kingsley in Ohio, and has served the Houston area and Southeast Texas for 31 years in both public and private markets providing pipeline construction and maintenance, water management, site work, civil construction, including water infrastructure and storm sewers, sanitary sewer systems, electric and telecom duct banks.

While this report focuses on pipeline construction in rural environments, Kingsley also performs utility work in urban areas.


Kingsley Constructors, (830) 468-3408,
Trencor, (419) 869-7107,
Vermeer Corp., (888) 837-6337,

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