Energy Growth Fuels Large HDD Rig Boom

energy-growth-fuels-large-hdd-rig-boomHorizontal directional drilling (HDD) as it relates to utility construction usually is dated from the late 1980s when the first compact drill units became commercially available.

As directional drilling proved its value for installing underground power and communications cable and small-diameter water and natural gas pipe, sales of directional drills increased steadily — 1,415 units sold in 1995, 2,371 in 1998 and peaking in 2000 with 3,990 drill rigs sold, most of them with 100,000 pounds of pullback or less with the greatest number in the 30,000- to 50,000-pound pullback range.

However, the roots of the HDD industry date back to the 1960s, and the first successful HDD machines were big ones for pipeline construction. These machines borrowed and adapted established oil field technology to make horizontal bores that could be directionally guided. It is generally agreed the first HDD river crossing was in 1971 when a drill unit developed by industry pioneer Martin Cherrington bored under the Pajaro River near Watsonville in Northern California.

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