Tag Archive for 'Underground Construction'

Steering Through Sandy Soils

Horizontal Boring & Tunneling Co. Upgrades Garden City Sewer System

By Neville Missen

The economy in Garden City, Kansas, is strong with the recent opening of a Dairy Farmers of America plant. Approximately 4 million pounds of milk from regional farmers make its way to the dairy plant each day, which has led to expansion for many other companies throughout the area. To keep up with the expected growth from the dairy industry and other retail stores being constructed nearby, Garden City is upgrading existing utilities to ensure they are prepared to handle current and future needs.

Garden City’s most recent project involves upgrading its existing sewer system to larger diameter piping near the dairy plant. While most of the work is being done using open-trench methods, there are several road crossings where trenchless methods needed to be employed. And to install the large casings deep underground, auger boring has been selected as the method of choice. 

Dialing Up a Trusted Partner

When specialty trenchless work needs to be done Horizontal Boring & Tunneling Co. of Exeter, Nebraska, is a trusted partner that many general construction companies call in. Since 1983, Horizontal Boring & Tunneling Owner Brent Moore and his team have been performing underground construction work throughout the country. Horizontal Boring & Tunneling crews perform everything from auger and guided boring to microtunneling and pipe jacking across Colorado, the Dakotas, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Horizontal Boring & Tunneling Project Manager, Kenton Moore, said their crews have been part of some huge projects. “We don’t shy away from big pipe. We do a lot of 60-, 72-, 84- and 96-inch diameter pipe installations,” Moore explained. “There are not a lot of companies as highly specialized as we are, which is why we are usually called on to handle large diameter bores.”

Doug Godown, Project Supervisor, and Roger Glenn, Crew Supervisor, of Horizontal Boring & Tunneling spend a lot of time in Kansas performing auger boring work. In fact, Glenn’s crew has spent most of the winter working in Garden City and the Kansas City area. “We usually work year-round, no matter what the weather is like,” he explained. “Over the years, we’ve gotten good at staying warm and ensuring our machinery is ready to go no matter what the temperature is.” 

Two-Month-Long Project

For the Garden City sewer expansion project, Glenn’s crew was pulled in to perform four 42-inch bores at depths of 12 to 13 feet in sandy soils. Bore distances were 75, 272, 280 and 383 feet long, and the bores exited into manholes at a 0.06 percent drop, so everything had to be on target. 

“Over the years, we’ve done around 10 bores in the Garden City area, so we knew what to expect on this one,” Glenn explained. “Soil conditions are sandy, which makes it a major challenge to stay on grade. Sandy soils can have air voids, water pockets and areas with sandstone. We also have to battle with the sand packing in around the casing because of the vibration in the hole.” 

The project was slated to take a total of 10 weeks, but thanks to a new tool in the Horizontal Boring & Tunneling fleet, the crew wrapped everything up two weeks early. 

New Way of Steering

On this project, the crew used the McLaughlin ON-TARGET auger boring steering system to keep the casings on grade with minimal side deviation. The 42-inch ON-TARGET steering head is welded onto the front of the first casing being installed. Crew members are then able to check and maintain the line throughout the bore with twin-line projection LED lights enclosed in the steering head and control the movement of the steering head – as well as hydraulic, water and electrical lines – from a self-contained control station. 

Horizontal Boring & Tunneling used the ON-TARGET system with its existing auger boring machine. “We’re familiar with McLaughlin auger boring equipment, but that’s not what we had on this job – we were using another manufacturer’s machine,” explained Glenn. “What’s nice about this system is that it will work with any auger boring machine – it doesn’t matter who made it, which makes it a pretty darn cost-effective option to add to a job.” 

The ON-TARGET steering system is an upgrade to how the crew would typically handle these bores. Glenn said they would have normally used a conventional head with left and right pads and would have pulled the auger out every 40 feet to measure where they were. Then, they would make adjustments to direction as needed, reset the auger and do another 40 to 60 feet. At 100 feet, they would also shoot the line grade. “The conventional way is a much more time-consuming process,” he added. “The ON-TARGET system saves a ton of time – on this job, a full two weeks.” 

Attention to the Details

The crew of six, along with a pair of John Deere excavators, prepared for the bores by digging entrance pits. They set 32-foot trench boxes with a 15-foot spread at a depth of 12 to 13 feet for the 75- and 272-foot bores. They dug a 64-foot long pit between the 280- and 383-foot bores since those backed up to each other. Compacted rock was used for a base in all of the entrance pits. 

The shorter bores were under a road that leads to the dairy plant and the driveway of a trucking company that hauls milk out of the facility. The 280-foot bore was under a state highway, and the longest shot was under a road to a sandpit. 

“Interrupting everyday operations at the plant or the trucking company was not an option, which is why they called us in,” said Glenn. “While I’m sure people knew there was an underground crew working in the area, no one had to change their normal routines to accommodate us.” 

After preparing each entrance pit, the auger boring machine was lowered into the ground where the first piece of casing with the ON-TARGET steering head was added. The crews worked the shorter bores in 20-foot increments. On the longer bores, they would install 40-foot joints, which certainly sped up production rates. “By the time we got to the longer bores, we had complete confidence in the ON-TARGET steering system,” said Glenn. “So, we welded up two casings at a time. On the first day of the last bore, we did 100 feet, 120 feet on the second day and 160 feet on the third day. The bore went quickly.” 

Hitting the Mark

More important than production rates, the team hit their exit mark on all four bores perfectly. “This was our first time using the McLaughlin ON-TARGET steering system, so I was a bit nervous on the first bore,” Glenn said. “McLaughlin sent out an expert to help us get started. By the end of his visit, we were confident that we knew what we were doing. We hit all of our marks right on target.” 

This material appeared in the June 2020 issues of the ACP Magazines:

California Builder & Engineer, Construction, Construction Digest, Construction News, Constructioneer, Dixie Contractor, Michigan Contractor & Builder, Midwest Contractor, New England Construction, Pacific Builder & Engineer, Rocky Mountain Construction, Texas Contractor, Western Builder

Are You Making These Mud Mistakes?

By Jeri Lamerton, Principal and Consultant, Lamerton Strategic Communications

In the 1970’s, horizontal directional drilling (HDD) was a lot of trial and error. It was new territory, successful only because of the grit and determination of a few early pioneers. Today, the industry has had more than 40 years to perfect the process. Technological innovations have improved performance while decades of experience has led to best practices universally accepted by underground professionals. Why then, is drilling fluid still getting short-changed?

“I’m surprised at the number of operators who take chances with their jobs by ignoring best practices when it comes to mud,” says Joseph “Jody” Parrish, HDD Division Manager for ARB Underground in Lake Forest, California. “They’re taking big risks with their equipment and jobs.”

Parrish has 37 years of industry experience to back up his statement. He’s worked internationally, through some of the toughest conditions imaginable including an earthquake and the Artic in the winter. In 2009, he even headed up the longest underground bore project in Ecuador at the time.

ARB Underground in the Port of Los Angeles, California

“We don’t cut corners when it comes to drilling fluid,” he says. “It’s an easy way to manage risk.”

Like other HDD professionals, Parrish points out that drilling fluids help stabilize the borehole, suspend cuttings and carry them out of the hole much better than water alone. Without it, equipment can be damaged, boring efficiency is compromised, and the risk of frac-outs and other damage to the site is greatly increased. Unfortunately, the expense and perceived hassle of “doing it right” keeps some from following best practices. They routinely break four drilling fluid rules, perhaps not realizing the risks they are taking.

Designate a Mud Man

One common mistake HDD operators can make is not having a trained crewmember in charge of drilling fluid. It seems harmless to send a laborer to “top it off” when mud is running low, but this can actually sabotage your drilling progress.

In a typical bore, fluid returns are about 20 percent solids at any given point. Incorrectly mixed mud – that “topped off” by someone who doesn’t know what they are doing – runs a high risk of actually putting solids back into the hole, undoing any progress you’ve made. These additional solids can clog the annulus, wear out pump parts, cause a loss of torque, and causes an increase in torque and pullback pressures. This results in drill pipe getting stuck down hole and even lead to inadvertent returns. 

Have a Mud Engineer on Site

A mud engineer works hand-in-hand with a trained mud man. Often hired from a drilling fluid manufacturer, the mud engineer checks the fluid every hour or so, making sure the recycler is working correctly and the mud mix is still maximized for current conditions.

“A mud engineer knows the fluid,” says Wyo-Ben’s Tyson Smith, who has worked as a mud engineer on many of Parrish’s jobs. “We monitor the mud’s efficiency and make adjustments on-site so you can get the most performance out of your drill. For example, if an operator is experiencing a high amount of fluid loss, a mud engineer will know the correct polymer to add to the mix to solve the problem and keep the job running smoothly.”

Don’t Skimp on Your Mix

Some operators will “save money” by not using the proper fluid mix. For example, they skip adding soda ash to their make-up water. Soda ash lowers water’s hardness and increases its pH value to the levels needed for effective drilling fluid performance. Unfortunately, not adding soda ash to your water means you might need to use up to 50 percent more bentonite in your mix. With the cost of soda ash versus bentonite, this “money-saving” move actually costs more.

Costs can really add up when you “save money” by skipping other additives as well. Geotechnical conditions, not budgetary concerns, should always mandate what mix of drilling fluid to use. Without the proper mix, your equipment is working harder than it has to. This not only slows drilling, it increases the wear and tear on your tools and equipment, decreasing service life and causing breakdowns. 

“The maintenance costs, replacement costs, and job shut-down costs should be enough to get people to use the proper mix,” Parrish says. “You pay to add something like Uni-Drill to your mud, but you always get your money’s worth when you consider the costs of not using it.”

Parrish’s example – Uni-Drill – is a Wyo-Ben product that conditions drilling fluids to control fluid loss, prevent formation clays from swelling, and keep tools clean by preventing bit balling. The additive helps build viscosity and reduces drag and torque, helping your down-hole tools do their job more efficiently and effectively. 

Another ARB Underground project in Hermosa Beach, California

“Think of it as insurance,” Smith says, who cautions against using bentonite without the proper additives. “There are many great additives on the market for every condition you will encounter. Using the right product will increase the effectiveness of your fluid and save you money and heartache down the line.”

Don’t Overuse Your Mud

Some operators use mud far beyond its effectiveness. Reasons include the cost of disposal, the cost and hassle of mixing new mud and – to be honest – laziness. The problem is that when mud gets too heavy, it loses flow properties. This means you’re not getting cuttings back out of the hole like you should, which can lead to a variety of problems and delays including inadvertent returns. 

According to Parrish, 10 pounds is the rule at ARB Underground. Once the mud reaches this weight, they dispose of the mud and the on-site mud engineer determines the proper mix for a new batch. 

In the end, cutting corners simply doesn’t pay. With all that can go wrong on a jobsite, from equipment failure to hole collapses and more, “saving” on your mud can end up costing you instead. 

“I’ve heard that doing mud right is just too messy and expensive,” says Parrish. “But what’s really messy and expensive is having to tell the DOT you’ve buckled their highway because you didn’t have the right mix of drilling fluid. Think about it.”

Making The Grade: Tracking On-Grade Bores

By Karly Rupp

Two 300-foot bores, 17 feet down, through 44,000 psi of basalt. All at a .75 percent grade. It’s just another day’s work for Logan Kallwick and his crews.

“That job was a tough one,” said Kallwick, field supervisor for Downing Diversified in Kalama, Washington. “But those are the kind of jobs we’re known for. We have a reputation in the Portland area for going after grade bores and doing them right.”

Using a Ditch Witch® JT40, Kallwick’s team installed 600 feet of 14-inch HDP pipe in the tough basalt terrain of St. Helen’s, Oregon. They maintained less than two feet of fall in each of the two 300-foot bores. That kind of precision drilling doesn’t just happen—it’s earned.

“You have to be thorough,” Kallwick said. “It’s not a typical bore where you’re just shooting from point A to point B. You’ll usually see guys go six, eight, 10 feet at a time between checks and locates. But when we were piloting that bore, I was checking every two to three inches to make sure we were sitting on grade and making corrections every bit of the way.”

Of course, that kind of intensity takes time. That’s why grade bores typically take longer than usual. The key, Kallwick says, is to make sure that extra time is spent moving forward, not idle. 

For example, the company uses walkover tracking rather than relying on both a front and a back locate, which could translate into two or three time-consuming locates per check. In walkover mode, the Subsite® Electronics TK RECON™ system they use provides immediate locates directly over the head, instantly feeding that information to a Subsite display on the drill. Rather than waiting for a locator to take readings 30 feet in front of the head or 20 feet behind it to get direction and depth data, the drill operator gets accurate information quickly, right at the drill seat, so he can make adjustments and keep making forward progress.

“We’ve tried other systems, but Subsite is the locator we rely on,” said Kallwick. “We’re doing these bores where we’ve got to have three quarters of an inch precision with just .75 percent deviation … and we’re 17 feet deep in some of the hardest material you can find … and we’re still able to track the head quickly and accurately and complete these jobs successfully. I have immediate information at my fingertips so I can sit on the drill and interpret depths and percentages constantly as we’re moving. I can continue to progress forward instead of waiting around for that information to relay and then having to take my time to move forward. Without it, you could take three or four times longer to do something like this.”

Kallwick also pointed out a time-saving benefit when it comes to vibration.

“We started shooting one of these grade bores—a 1.2 percent—using a different locating system. But with all the vibration, our pitches were jumping from a plus seven percent down to a minus four percent. We would have to stop to get a reading in the middle. But the TK RECON system seems to buffer the percentages and give us a consistent reading as we move along. It’ll go up and down a little bit, but that’s what the head is actually doing so we’ll make adjustments. It saves a ton of time.”

Combined with maximum productivity from a fleet of Ditch Witch directional drills and the skillful expertise that comes from decades of experience, the company’s reliance on accurate walkover locating and seamless data transmission to a display on the drill has enabled them to trim time off difficult grade bores. The St. Helen’s job, for example, went quicker than you might think. Chipping away at the volcanic rock was so difficult, the pit itself took the general contractor more than two weeks to dig. Even so, the entire job was completed in just 21 days. 

From storm systems and gravity sewer lines to a 1,100-foot shot with a six-inch pipe for jet fuel at the Portland International Airport, Downing Diversified has tackled all kinds of tough grade bores. Each job has its unique challenges, but Kallwick has the same advice for any grade bores.

“We’ve made a name for ourselves doing one percent and sub one percent grade bores. That’s only one inch of vertical play up and down every 10 linear feet that we move forward. It’s a very tight tolerance. So, you must have the patience to check and double-check and be very precise. If you have that, then it comes down to using the right equipment and making sure it is calibrated and operating properly. For locating, that means using something accurate and reliable enough for direct walkover locates in deep, difficult conditions. It’s vital that your locator is walking and standing right over that head, so you know exactly where it is at that time.”

As municipalities, general contractors and others continue to recognize the benefits of directional drilling for grade projects, more of these opportunities are becoming available. When bidding and planning for these jobs, it’s important to know that boring on grade at tight tolerances and for long distances is not only possible with walkover locating, it’s preferred. You’ll be more productive and more successful which, ultimately, is good for the industry as a whole.

About Downing Diversified

The Downing Diversified team has over 30 years’ experience in the HDD industry. Jimmy Downing began gaining his extensive knowledge and love of drilling in 1989 when his father purchased the first model drill manufactured by Ditch Witch (one of the first mini rigs to come to the Pacific Northwest). In 2012, he founded his own company, Downing Diversified. The company’s specialized equipment and turn-key capabilities have made them a leader in residential, municipal, industrial or commercial installations. For more information, visit downingdiversified.com.

About Subsite® Electronics

Subsite® Electronics, a Charles Machine Works Company, is committed to providing underground construction professionals the most comprehensive suite of electronic products in the industry, including utility locators, Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) guidance equipment, utility inspection systems, and equipment machine controls. By using innovative technologies, extensive market feedback and outstanding customer support, Subsite has established itself as the premier source of electronic technology to support the installation, maintenance and inspection of underground pipe and cable. For more information, visit subsite.com.

The Toro Company to Acquire The Charles Machine Works, Inc. 

The Toro Company to Acquire The Charles Machine Works, Inc. 

Parent Company of a Strong Portfolio of Underground Construction Brands 

Including Market-Leading Ditch Witch 

The Toro Company (NYSE: TTC) today announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire privately-held The Charles Machine Works, Inc., an Oklahoma corporation and the parent company of Ditch Witch and several other leading brands in the underground construction market, for $700 million in cash subject to certain adjustments set forth in the definitive agreement. The transaction is subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions and is currently anticipated to close before the end of Toro’s fiscal 2019 third quarter. More detailed information regarding the transaction is included in an investor presentation available at www.thetorocompany.com.

Headquartered in Perry, Oklahoma, Charles Machine Works designs, manufactures and sells a range of products to cover the full life-cycle of underground pipe and cable, including horizontal directional drills, walk and ride trenchers, utility loaders, vacuum excavators, asset locators, pipe rehabilitation solutions and after-market tools. The company, known as “The Underground Authority” for their deep understanding of the structures and systems in those markets, and the most important needs of underground construction professionals, generated calendar year 2018 revenues of approximately $725 million.

“The addition of Charles Machine Works will further strengthen our portfolio of market-leading brands supported by talented employees, a commitment to innovation, a best-in-class dealer network and long-standing customer relationships,” said Richard M. Olson, Toro’s chairman and chief executive officer. “As an organization, Charles Machine Works aligns well with and will contribute to our own strategic priorities of profitable growth, operational excellence and empowering people. The company expands our business in a meaningful way in an adjacent category we know well through our own specialty construction business and in a market that is attractive given the potential for growth in addressing both aging infrastructure that is currently in place and new infrastructure that will be needed to support next-generation technologies like 5G.” 

“Culturally, our two organizations are very well aligned and, in our past experience, that has been essential to the success of a business combination like this. We share similar people values, performance expectations, business models focused on innovation, brand and channel, and strong community ties. With its rich multigenerational family legacy, commitment to its employees and market leadership position, we have respected and admired Charles Machine Works for a long time. We were excited when joining forces became a possibility, and we know that both companies will be stronger together.”

“Our success is the result of years of hard work and an unwavering commitment to developing innovative solutions for customers,” said Rick Johnson, Charles Machine Works chief executive officer. “From developing the world’s first service line trencher in Perry, Oklahoma, to today’s robust Ditch Witch dealer network, our family of companies is well-positioned to join The Toro Company’s family of brands. We look forward to building upon our founder’s legacy of best-in-class offerings in the expanding underground construction market.”

Toro expects to finance the transaction with a combination of cash on hand and debt, including from additional financing arrangements and borrowings under its existing credit facility. The all-cash purchase price of $700 million represents a multiple of approximately eight times Charles Machine Works’ calendar year 2018 EBITDA, including $30 million of anticipated annual run-rate cost synergies phased in over three years, that Toro intends to achieve through opportunities in purchasing, manufacturing best practices and administrative efficiencies. Toro expects the transaction to be immediately accretive to EPS excluding purchase accounting adjustments and transaction related expenses.

J.P. Morgan Securities LLC acted as financial advisor to Toro and Fox Rothschild LLP and Latham & Watkins, LLP acted as Toro’s legal counsel. Bank of America Merrill Lynch and J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, N.A. have provided committed debt financing to Toro for the transaction. McAfee & Taft A Professional Corporation, acted as Charles Machine Works’ legal counsel.


ICUEE 2015 a Cornucopia of New Products

Remus  and Mill my best friends, both victims of lymphoma earlier this year.

Remus and Mill my best friends, both victims of lymphoma earlier this year.

By Greg Sitek

ICUEE – International Construction Utility Equipment Exposition is an incredible show because it gives visitors an opportunity to see and “test-drive” equipment. The show started in the “corn fields” of Elburn Illinois. Grew. Moved to the DuPage County Illinois Fair Grounds. Moved to Olathe Kansas. Moved to the abandoned Kansas City Airport. Moved to Louisville Kentucky where it still operates.

It was started because utilities – the phone and electric companies – needed an opportunity to see and test the equipment that they would consider buying in the coming years.

The show grew because it served a purpose and fulfilled the needs of the industries it served. Every show has been progressively better – not the weather, the content. I haven’t missed a one.

This year’s show was doused with rain but it was loaded with new product and in spite of the rain, had a record attendance of more than 18,000+ attendees and hundreds of exhibitors.

Unfortunately I can’t list all of the exhibitors who introduced new or updated products at the show. I personally visited with the people from Caterpillar, Bobcat,

Vermeer, Ditch Witch, JCB, Thunder Creek, TerraMac,Toro, Doosan, Subsite, JCB, Toro, EyeTrax, Altec, Terex, CASE, TEAMCO, IMT, Hyundai, Volvo, Yanmar, Vacuworx, Palfinger and others. It was a great show.

It was a great show because it introduced new products, brought major segments of the industry together, shared industry-relative information and projected a bright future.

In spite of the rain everyone was cheerful and upbeat looking forward to the challenges of the future. Conversations evolved around the “Highway Bill,” other pending legislation and of course the presidential campaigns. One common thread was that virtually everyone was anxious for the race to over because they were tired of all the politics. Another often repeated comment is that the race should be limited to only three or a maximum of six months prior to the election.

Over the next couple of months we will provide you with product information from ICUEE. For now, a recap of ICUEE 2015. It has set a show record as the largest ever with more than 18,000 registered attendees, and surpassing the last show by 13 percent. ICUEE 2015 ran September 29 – October 1, at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Kentucky.

Registrants came from all 50 states, nine of the 10 Canadian provinces and more than 60 other countries worldwide.

The 2015 show set records for exhibit space and number of exhibitors. More than 950 exhibitors, including more than 250 companies new to the show, took more than 1.2 million net square feet of exhibit space to showcase their latest equipment and product innovations, and conduct numerous live demonstrations and hands-on opportunities.

“This is our most comprehensive ICUEE ever, and there has been tremendous enthusiasm and interaction among attendees and exhibitors from Day One, when the official Kentucky Derby bugler opened the show,” said Show Director Sara Truesdale Mooney.

“Attendees are finding more companies, product innovations and product demos – plus quality networking with industry experts and peers that really increases the value of the show,” said Mooney.

ICUEE is also known as The Demo Expo and is the largest event for the utility industry, owned and produced by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM). The show brings together industry professionals to gain comprehensive insights into the latest technologies, innovations and trends affecting their industry.

See you at the next ICUEE.