HDD Contractor Profile: Hot Rod Directional Boring

Hot Rod Directional Boring Project

Hot Rod Directional Boring’s fleet of eight horizontal directional drills are constantly at work across Alberta.


Not narrow focusing on oil and gas work and always trying to get better everyday and with every project has led Hot Rod Directional Boring to grow and succeed. Hot Rod Directional Boring (or HRDB as it is often referred) prides itself on going to great lengths to provide its customers with superior service at a great value.

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Formed six years ago by a group of friends — each with more than a decade of horizontal directional drilling (HDD) experience — who wanted to work for themselves instead of other HDD companies, the Devon, Alberta-based company has grown to an eight-rig operation with 16 field workers. Its fleet of drill rigs include a Ditch Witch JT100, a Ditch Witch JT60 All Terrains; three Vermeer D36x50 Series II Navigators, a Vermeer D60x90 S3, a Vermeer D20x22 S3 and a Vermeer D7x11 Series 2.

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Though the company is based in Alberta, the heart of Canada’s oil and gas country, Jerrit Zimmer, co-founder of HRDB, says the company never planned on exclusively focusing on that sector, as evidenced by its rig offerings. Partnering with Zimmer in the venture are Chris MacNiel and Scott Jorgensen.

Hot Rod Directional Boring Vermeer

Hot Rod Directional Boring, based in Devon, Alberta, Canada, operates both Vermeer and Ditch Witch drill rigs.

“We cover the entire range, anything that has to do with HDD. We’ve drilled intakes into lakes for water projects, we’ve installed water pipelines and we are HDPE and PVC fusion certified,” Zimmer says. “We recently landed a series of projects for EPCOR [one of the largest power providers in Alberta] and we have about four drills a day working on EPCOR projects during the summer months.”

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Since entering the HDD contracting world on their own, there has been a consistent demand for HRDB’s services with smaller fiber and local utility projects filling in during the slower times in the oil and gas sector. The largest product pipe the company has installed was a 26-in. PVC pipe in the Olds, Alberta region for Hamm Construction Ltd.

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“We are always trying new things. We don’t ever necessarily drill a bore the same way every time. Even if the previous bore went well, we are always trying something new or eliminating an inefficient process that may have slowed us down or caused a problem,” says Zimmer. “It could be something simple like a pump to a centrifuge that is causing problems and before the next job, we’ll look for a better pump system. We are always trying to get better and better with every job. HRDB doesn’t have a huge staff, but we are focused on keeping everyone going, working together and completing the job properly.”

Trying New Techniques, Equipment

One of those ways is by not shying away from using a new technology or design, as was the case on recent series of bores for Peyto. It was on this job that Zimmer and his crews first met the Wombat, a relatively new-to-Canada hole opener manufactured in Australia by Hard Metals Australia and distributed in Canada by its subsidiary Hardmetals Canada Inc.

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“We had never tried a PDC [polycrystalline diamond] bit before and Ervin Bata [general manager] of Hardmetals Canada Inc. approached us at the shop about using their hole opener and we gave it a go,” Zimmer relates. “We used it this past winter for a series of bores for Peyto, an oil and gas exploration and development company headquartered in Alberta.”

On the job since November, Zimmer says that this project is the largest and one of the most challenging undertakings in HRDB’s history. Not so much due to site conditions, though those always play into a job’s difficulty, but because of the number of bores required.

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“This is a triple line job of a 10-in and two 6-in. lines that are all 1 m apart and there are about 50 crossings, some of which are across major creeks,” Zimmer says.

Wombat Hole Opener Hot Rod Directional

A Hot Rod Directional Boring worker cleans the Wombat Hole Opener gets hosed after a succesful bore.

According to the results, the Wombat helped HRDB stick to its mantra of getting better with every job. Zimmer says that, for the conditions they were in, the Wombat provided a faster and better way for the crews to complete their reaming work.

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“The Wombat from Hardmetals has helped us move forward,” Zimmer says. “We are now on a mud motor shot project using the Wombat PDC bit and we reamed 150 m in a 12-hour shift, in very hard formation, which for us, surpassed a new threshold of production. It is another tool that is out there and available to us. It helps us get the bore done more efficiently at a reasonable cost making it a great option for HRDB and its clients.”

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Zimmer and the team at HRDB, have come to know that matching the right rig and tooling to the project is key to productivity and helps the company achieve its goal of providing a superior service to its clients. Another key to the success of HRDB is the relationship it has developed with his dealers.

“It’s important to have a great relationship with your dealer.  In an industry where if you have a breakdown and the owner wants you back up and running in 10 minutes, a good relationship is key,” Zimmer says. “When you are friends with somebody, it goes a long way to achieving mutual goals. A positive relationship has always been of great benefit to us.”

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Hardmetals Wombat

The Wombat Hole Opener features inbuilt stabilization, the flexibility of simple replacement of cutter type and diameter in the field and excellent down the hole performance.

Hard Metals Brings Wombat to North America

The Wombat Hole Opener, first introduced in Australia by Hard Metals Australia, made its way to Canada in 2016 following interest from contractors following the 2015 Global Petroleum Show. The Wombat is distributed in Canada by Hardmetals Canada Inc., a subsidiary of Hard Metals Australia.

The Wombat, unlike other hole openers with fabricated cutter wings, features a setup that allows for the change out of not only the wings —  but also the front stabilization ring — in the field as conditions warrant. Using the same body, a driller can go from polycrystalline diamond (PDC) to tungsten carbide to a tri-cone reamer and diameters of 4- to 40-in. on the same cutter body.

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According to Ervin Bata, general manager Hardmetals Canada Inc., many contractors have commented that because of the design, the Wombat delivered the, “straightest hole they ever drilled.” He adds that the field replacement capabilities of the tool equate to less dollars invested, quicker turnaround time and better production for the contractors.

For more information, visit hardmetals.com or email ervin@hardmetals.com.

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Mike Kezdi is associate editor of Trenchless Technology Canada.

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