Hard at Work with Hard Rock Directional Drilling
As the Texas sun beats down on Hard Rock Directional Drilling’s jobsite near the Cibolo Creek in South Central, Texas, owner Robert Myers surveys his team’s progress and takes a few moments to reflect on this challenging project and a few of their record-setting bores of the past.
“This one, like so many jobs, is really important to me,” Myers explained. “I know the customer very well. Dean (Davenport with Water Exploration Co., Ltd) and I are both heavily involved with supporting the San Antonio Rodeo and junior livestock community in Texas. Over the years, we realized we have a lot in common and became good friends.”
Water Exploration, Davenport’s company, is installing a water pipeline that will bring much-needed water from Comal County to Bexar County, Texas. “Having enough water around this part of the state is a major issue, and this project is going to help a lot of people,” Myers added.
South Comal Water Project Bore
Hard Rock Directional Drilling’s part on the South Comal water pipeline project is to install a 42-in. casing, 25 ft under the Cibolo Creek. Inside the casing is a 36-in. poly line that will transport the water.
“Compared to a lot of the jobs we’ve been doing recently, this is a relatively short bore,” Myers said. “It’s still a challenging one, because we’re in a highly environmentally sensitive area. We can’t have any inadvertent returns, and containing drilling fluids is extremely important.”
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Hard Rock Directional Drilling is using a Vermeer D1000x900 Navigator horizontal directional drill (HDD) to complete the bore and a Vermeer R9x12T reclaimer to recycle the used drilling fluid. It’s an equipment combination that Myers said his team has grown quite fond of.
“We drill in a lot of solid rock and have to pull back some heavy pipe,” said Myers. “The Vermeer million-pound maxi rig has plenty of power to make that happen. And, since we’re drilling in rock, we more often than not are using a mud motor and a lot of drilling fluid, so that’s why the R9x12 T reclaimer has been a must-have machine. It does a great job of separating solids from the water and keeps pace with any drilling rig we pair it with. We reduce the amount of water we use on big projects, and that also helps us reduce some of our expenses.”
Dealing with Gravel
Throughout the pilot bore the Vermeer D1000x900 HDD maxi rig operator closely monitored fluid pressures and made sure they were getting good returns. The pilot bore went off without a hitch, but the crew did discover two layers of gravel on each side of the bore that could lead to challenges as they began to widen the hole.
To prevent any issues, the crew installed 16-in. casings approximately 200 ft down in the gravel areas. With the casing installed, the crew made four passes with various size reamers to open the hole to 60 in. in diameter.
Next up for the crew is pulling pipe, which Myers anticipates will go as smooth as any HDD contractor can wish for. “My team is doing an excellent job on this project – just like so many that have come before,” explained Myers.
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Seeing another project almost done is always a rewarding experience for Myers, a man who made the leap from employee to business owner back in 2003. Then, it was Myers, his wife, a Vermeer D80x100 Series II Navigator HDD and a dream. Through the years, with the support of his family, friends and employees, Hard Rock Directional Drilling has grown to 160 people and operates a fleet of 30 drill rigs.
“We’ve managed to put over 4,000,000 ft of pipe in the ground in the last 15 years,” boasted Myers. “We started mainly doing fiberoptic, water and sewer line installs, and have worked our way up to large diameter pipelines. Our growth in size and expertise is because of the quality people working here. We set out to create a company based on honesty, attention to detail and hard work. I think we’ve done an excellent job on instilling that in every new employee we bring on, and we have given them plenty of opportunities to learn and grow with the organization. I think of all of these people as my family, which is why I look forward to work every day.
In addition to growing the size of the team, Hard Rock Directional Drilling has also expanded its number of locations throughout the state of Texas with facilities in San Antonio, Pearsall, Monahans and Amarillo. While the bulk of their work is done in the state, they have crews actively working throughout the United States on oil and gas infrastructure projects.
A can-do attitude is another attribute that Myers considers a key element to the company’s success. “When our team is called in to plan a job, we figure out the best possible way to get a bore done,” explained Myers. “Drilling through rock, installing large-diameter pipe and long-distance bores — we have done it all.”
This past summer, Hard Rock Directional Drilling’s crews installed 8,414 ft of 30-in. diameter steel pipe next to a busy highway in the outskirts of Midland, Texas, through rock. The project took 84 days to complete and was done with a Vermeer D1000x900 HDD and a Vermeer D500x500 Navigator HDD, along with a pair of R9x12T reclaimers. Myers said it was one of the most challenging jobs his team has ever done.
However, that job is not the longest bore for Hard Rock Directional Drilling — those honors go to the Kemah Boardwalk project in Kemah, Texas. Using a Vermeer D1000x900 HDD and a Vermeer D330x330 Navigator HDD crews installed 11,365 ft of 12-in. — that’s over two miles. The two drills were positioned on opposite ends of the job and intersected near the middle and took crews just 32 days to complete. “It was a fantastic job; everything went according to plan,” said Myers.
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Success Is a Partnership
Impressive jobs like the ones in Kemah and Midland, Texas, don’t just happen. Myers said it takes a lot of preparation and partnerships with customers, his teams in the field and the people that provide his team with equipment, tooling and parts.
“Success in construction means seeking and establishing great partners,” explained Myers. “We have that with our team, our customer and companies like Vermeer. From day one, I’ve thought of the team at Vermeer as family. No matter where we are working when we need something, the Vermeer dealer is there. We can depend on them, so our customers can depend on us. And as we’ve grown, they’ve been able to provide a lot of advice and direction, to help us operate lean while delivering quality results.”
As for the partnership that Myers has with his team, it’s all about working safely and efficiently. Myers believes that safety is the most important aspect when working in this business, and it’s something that every one of his employees executes on every day. His team has an impeccable safety record and was recently awarded with the Texas Mutual Platinum Safety Award. The insurance company only awards 45 of its 87,000 active policyholders with the safety award on an annual basis. It’s an honor Myers and his team are proud of.
Another Honest Day’s Work
As the sun starts to go down at the South Comal water project jobsite, Myers and his team’s attention start to shift to their loved ones back at home. “We do what we do and stress things like safety, so everyone that works at Hard Rock can make it home at night,” he said. “We have great people that take care of each other, and everyone does their job well.”
Matt Eul, is senior product marketing specialist-recycling, forestry, pipeline and speciality excavation at Vermeer.