We are often asked how is the construction market faring in areas related to trenchless technology. I have seen in all the posts related to my LinkedIn feed that trenchless technology in all aspects appears to be doing quite well. While that’s great, further research confirms that indeed the overall construction industry is solid.
The U.S. Census Bureau recently reported overall construction activity for May. Total public construction may 2020 vs. May 2019 was up 4.7 percent. Most notably within those numbers, state and local construction of a nonresidential nature for water supply was up 20 percent, federal such projects were up 19.9 percent. Sewage and waste disposal construction was down a bit at 1.8 and 1.6 percent, respectively. National news played up the fact that residential construction was down May to April of this year. However, May 2020 vs. May 2019 was up 67.1 percent.
On the oil & gas pipeline front, the news is less heartening. Recently, in a span of 24 hours, a court ordered the Dakota Access Pipeline to shut down and Duke Energy and Dominion Energy cancelled the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project. Pipeline construction continues to face regulatory, environmental, and special interest group roadblocks. Transmission pipelines are critical to our infrastructure and will continue to be built. Railroad and truck transportation are the only alternatives and they have their own issues. Alternative energy is developing, but fossil fuel energy is still vital to our economy. In contrast to transmission pipelines, distribution gas pipeline work is growing to meet commercial and residential growth; plus the on-going need for inspection, maintenance, and rehabilitation.
The 2020 construction forecast generally projects a 2 percent growth over 2019, as project work is accelerating after an initial Covid-19 slowdown. So when you look on LinkedIn, you’ll see HDD, manhole rehab, sewer projects, telecom, etc., all taking place.
HDD in a Rural Setting
I’m always on the look out for trenchless work in my travels. Recently, I came across an HDD project being completed by Aspire Energy of Orrville, Ohio for Consumers Gas Cooperative. It was a semi-rural area in Medina County, Ohio. There are a couple cities with 25,000 population in the county, so it is largely rural. This was a county road with homes on five-plus acre lots . Versus open-cut, these type projects can be completed with relative “ease.”
There are a few underground challenges because there are likely no sewer lines (septic tanks instead) or public water (well water or ponds are the source). The HDD bores can be quite long, there’s less local restrictions and certainly there’s a lot less traffic. General population has sure grown to appreciate trenchless technology even in semi-rural areas where you would least expect it.
More Industry Event Changes
The final trenchless event of the year was to be the No-Dig North Show in Vancouver in October. Sadly, NASTT has made the tough decision of having to cancel this and reschedule it for 2021, which is now planned to take place Nov. 8-10 in Vancouver. In the meantime, the 2021 NASTT No-Dig Show will be held March 28-April 1 in Orlando, Florida. This will be the first year in decades that we will not have a No-Dig Show.
A show closely related to the rehabilitation side of trenchless technology is the annual WEFTEC show, sponsored by the Water Environment Federation (WEF). Sadly, this show has been changed from an in-person event to a virtual show. The virtual conference and exhibition will take place Oct. 5-9. Information on the event can be found at weftec.org. We continue on being the year of virtual events.
Bernard P. Krzys, Publisher