Prime Drilling 500,000-lb rig

Cobbles and Boulders: No Problem!

KS Energy Services recently completed a project that combined a rough and inconsistent terrain with subzero temperatures, two factors that made this project a challenge for the contractor.


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The project — which consisted of five crossings over 8,200-plus ft — took place in Janesville, Wisconsin, and involved relocating a steel natural gas pipe due to bridge repair work to the I-39 corridor. The City of Janesville is located south of the state capital of Madison and is home to approximately 63,000 people.

The natural gas line, owned by public utility Alliant Energy, based in Madison, was located right in the middle of the city’s commercial action, making the job of relocating it without much disruption to the traffic and the population an additional challenge.

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This project marked the first foray for KS Energy into the maxi drill HDD market and purchased a Prime Drilling 500,000-lb rig to handle the second of the five crossings, which involved 3,600 ft of 12-in. steel product pipe. With the success of this major milestone KS continues to perform more large drill projects in 2018.

Prime Drilling 500,000-lb rig

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KS Energy, founded in 2005 by the Klumb family, known in HDD circles for owning Arby Construction for nearly 30 years before selling to Quanta Services. Today, KS Energy is led by president and CEO Dennis Klumb Jr., Tom Schaitel, as well as Klumb brothers Rick, Mike and Shawn. Headquartered in New Berlin, Wisconsin and with locations in Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Ohio and Minnesota. The company handles gas distribution and pipeline construction, underground electric, sewer camera inspections and telecommunications construction projects.

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The Project

This project had two significant crossings of 3,600 ft each, one with 10-in. steel pipe and the other with 12-in. KS Energy subcontracted the 10-in. crossing to Ellingson, which used an American Augers 440 rig. KS handled the remaining four crossings, three of which were relatively short (one at 650 and two at 220).

Prime Drilling 500,000-lb rig

The crossing using 12-in. pipe was located right in the middle of Janesville — in a dense populated commercial area. The setup area was in a Farm & Fleet parking lot on the DOT right of way of Highway 14, with the exit pit 3,600 ft away on the back side of a Best Buy. A retention pond was also crossed. “You had normal vehicle traffic on the highway, which was a busy thoroughfare, plus the customer traffic coming to and from Farm & Fleet and Best Buy.”

The drilling schedule was not kind to the workers as it was one of the coldest winters Wisconsin has experienced in some time. Drilling started in January and finished in April. “One of the hurdles in the project was that it took place in January,” says KS Energy HDD manager Jeff Rockney. “We did battle with the cold. The warmest it ever got was 21 F, which isn’t too bad but the lows were pretty low — subzero at times.”

Prime Drilling 500,000-lb rig

Tough Terrain

Rockney notes that KS Energy assisted with the design of the crossings as ground conditions were not optimal. The initial plan called for drilling a bit shallow but the difficult soil conditions meant other options needed to be reviewed. KS Energy met with Alliant Energy and agreed on a different bore path which ensured a successful crossing and delivery of a quality product.

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“The ground was made up of sand, cobbles, boulders and gravel,” Rockney explains. “There was a 35-ft layer of sand, cobbles, boulders and gravel that started about 10 ft below the surface. Our initial design called for drilling a little bit shallower but we ended up having to get underneath that layer in order to ensure a better-quality product pipe in the end.”

For the crossing, KS Energy used a 12 ¼-in. drill bit with an 8-in mud motor, rented from JT Miller. The rock layer wasn’t solid, just loose material, which made drilling through it a challenge. The crew used Tensor tooling and a Sharewell steering hand to get through the layer. “Going through that layer, it really affected our ability to navigate the [steering] head through it. It bounced us all around, giving us some problems,” Rockney says.

“There were so many different layers different layers of boulders, sand and gravels,” he adds. “It was not fun.”

Using the Prime Drill, as well as a Prime Drill 1,000 gpm mud pump and a Tulsa Rig Iron MCS 750, the crossing was completed in 21 days. The final four smaller crossings, suing a Vermeer 36×50 Navigator drill, followed.


Prime Drilling 500,000-lb rig

Rockney, who has more than 25 years in the HDD industry, says the challenges this project presented were significant, with the biggest one being the ever changing formation. “The one thing that was consistent was that the [soils were] constantly changing.”

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Rockney says one major factor behind the success of this particular crossing was the Prime Drill 500,000-lb rig. It was a new rig we had to quickly learn to operate but the veteran crew took to it pretty easily. He also notes that Prime Drilling’s Bill Brennan and his team came onsite to ensure the rig’s use was seamless. “When we got the drill, we ran it for 21 days straight, working 12-hour days, without any issues. Bill [Brennan] and his team stayed with us for the first 14 days to make sure we could meet our time line.”

Sharon M. Bueno is managing editor of Trenchless Technology.