DS Boring Saves Time in Florida’s Sand

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Waiting on wastewater service had put sales of residential lots of a new division north of Tampa, Florida, on hold. Difficulty with permitting was one reason for the delay. When permitting finally came through, then it was wet weather.

The project owner needed a force main installed beneath Florida Highway 589 just north of its junction with Highway 54 east of Odessa.

Also known as Suncoast Parkway, 589 is a north-south toll road operated by Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise. It opened in 2001 as a northward extension of Veterans Expressway, a Tampa beltway to relieve commuter traffic congestion.

The project plans called for the trenchless installation of 320 ft of 24-in. steel casing 6 ft beneath the roadway. DS Boring LLC of Odessa, Florida, performed the auger boring operation.

Established June 1, 2016, DS Boring is a new company started by long-time industry professionals Jim and Denise Spivey. Jim Spivey is a second generation lineman. “I was climbing poles with my dad when I was 13,” he said. Their own son is also in the industry, working for a power company.

That was more than 40 years ago. Over the course of his career, stringing cables pole to pole turned increasingly more to underground installation. A utilities company he started more than 30 years ago grew to a workforce of more than 200 employees. “We were doing a lot of jack-and-bore and directional boring work for underground utilities,” Spivey said.

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The Spiveys’ new company, DS Boring, specializes in auger boring and horizontal directional drilling (HDD), primarily for its utility clients.

The Spiveys aren’t the only veterans on board. Tom Hogan, general manager, who served as project supervisor for the Suncoast Parkway crossing job, and Doug Hartman, the job’s auger boring operator, each have worked with the Spiveys more than 20 years.

Boring operations beneath Suncoast Parkway began Sept. 10, 2018. The primary contractor of the project excavated a 57-ft long by 18-ft wide launch pit to a depth of 6 ft. Due to persistent rains, which had contributed to the project’s delay, the DS Boring crew covered the benched pit walls with plastic sheeting to prevent sand from washing down into it.

A lightly traveled, preexisting trail that navigated its way three quarters of a mile through swamp-like terrain gave DS Boring back access to the work area. The crew could keep its equipment off the tollway.

The primary contractor used the same excavator that created the pit to carry DS Boring’s new boring machine to it for commissioning – an American Augers 36/42-600 powered by a CAT Tier 4 Final diesel engine.

The 36/42-600 comes standard with three sections of track. DS Boring ordered theirs with five to accommodate the 40-ft long sections of pipe used on this job. A 1-in. steel plate, 4 ft high by 12 ft wide, backed the track assembly at the thrust wall.

Jim Lee, an American Augers application specialist, was on site both for the new unit’s commissioning and to help DS Boring train several of its newer employees in auger boring fundamentals. Although DS Boring’s own operators are expert boring specialists, Lee said, “We like to introduce operators to a new machine personally, walking them through the manufacturer-recommended procedures to get what we believe will be the safest and most efficient operation from the unit.”

A cutting head was not necessary in the Florida sand. The pipe’s friction band sufficiently overcut the hole diameter by ½ in. Without a cutting head, DS Boring set the auger back 8 to 10 in. inside the pipe. This kept a “sand plug” at the opening of the pipe to keep the auger from sucking sand in from around the pipe’s mouth.

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Spivey had anticipated a straightforward boring operation without complications, as he has installed pipe in this area several times before. Lee said, “We found just a bit of debris in the fill as we began the bore. It was good sand here, tightly compacted. It held up well throughout the run,” Lee said.

A light flow of drilling fluid down the lubrication tube reduced drag and further helped to hold the sand. Each 40-ft length of pipe took about one hour to weld on and just 25 minutes on average to advance.

The 36/42-600 has a five-speed transmission, with thrust rated up to 600,000 psi. “We never had to push too hard,” Lee said. “We never needed any more than, at most, 1,200 psi the entire run, and torque was always in third or second gear.”

DS Boring made it to the median the first day and completed the run the next. They maintained line and grade using a steering head and American Augers Dutch Level.

“Steering was controlled through rotation rods,” Lee said. “We used a 4-to-1 force multiplier to relieve pressure on the steering hinges. It steered really well, giving us whatever we asked for exactly when we asked for it.”

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As the crew set the eighth pipe into the ground, the first pipe emerged on target, perfectly in line and on grade. Lee said, “You’d be surprised the precision you can get using just a Dutch Level.” It’s based on the water level principle, he explained, a low-tech concept but reliable and accurate in use.

The 36/42-600 immediately went on to its next job and has been steadily boring one job after another since then. The excavator that had set the 16,400-lb assembled unit in the pit was no longer on the site. Like most other American Augers boring machines, however, the unit can be quickly split into its three main parts for ease of relocation. Assembly on the jobsite takes about 25 minutes.

The heaviest split-out section weighed around 5,600 lbs, well within the capability of DS Boring’s own, mid-size excavator.

In spite of additional time taken for Lee’s walkthroughs and instructional breaks, DS Boring completed the pipe installation, pressure-tested it and tied it in all within two days. Spivey said the customer was so pleased with DS Boring’s speedy resolution to the division project’s long delay, they began lining up more jobs for DS Boring in the future.

Spivey said. “Our fleet has several boring machines, three now by American Augers, and two Ditch Witch directional drills. They’re all staying pretty busy. We have so much work right here, we don’t have to travel far for jobs,” Spivey said. DS Boring continues to expand its operations and is hiring right now.

Lee Drugan is marketing manager at American Augers.

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