Tough Ground Conditions Not a Problem on Oklahoma Project

The entire drilling community is saddened by the passing of B&H Construction owner/member, Rocky Beller. His business knowledge and insight along with his motivational and charitable contributions to the community will be greatly missed by everyone he knew. The following story is a lasting legacy of how his understanding of trenchless technology and commitment to environmentally-friendly construction will be an inspiration to all for the future.

In a far, southeast corner of New Mexico is Loving. A small community that was home to what some referred to as a “job that couldn’t be done.” Agave Energy of New Mexico needed to run gas line conduit under the Pecos River north of town that consisted of some of the most obtrusive ground conditions anyone had dealt with to date. Agave hired local contractor, Ferguson Construction Co., to find just the right crew and equipment to handle the tough job.

Ferguson vice president Zach Weiser heard B & H Construction in Goldsby, Okla., was itching to give its new American Augers DD-10 a rigorous test, so he called on trusted colleague, Rocky Beller to do the job. Building upon their existing American Augers maxi-rig equipment, B & H Construction owner Beller purchased the DD-10 to fill a gap in mid-size rigs and job demand in their area.

“There is a lot of work out there for a rig in this 100,000 lbs. class,” Beller noted. B & H chose the DD-10 because it offers a torque rating that exceeds other drills in its class, 24-hour technical support, non-captive parts, impressive on-site service tech availability and a price that is more than competitive.

Relying on the terrific reputation of B & H Construction, Weiser communicated the job difficulties to Beller, who ensured a triumphant outcome. In business since 1981 and now boasting 150-plus employees, B & H is no stranger to tough jobs. With beginnings in oil and gas, B & H became familiar with harsh drilling environments and had the understanding of how important it is to have reliable, well-built equipment. With an economic downturn several years ago, B & H expanded into directional drilling and has built upon the experience ever since.

Project Skeptics

Project critics doubted B & H Construction and its new machine could run the pipeline at all, let alone within the 30-day time constraint. In fact, they would have preferred to dig the hole, but the Pecos proved too wide and too deep; trenchless equipment was a must. If the job was going to be completed, it would be the only 20-in. casing running beneath the Pecos.

Other contractors said the job was too tough. Extremely rocky conditions below the river were going to make drilling nearly impossible, according to some regionally located industry professionals. In fact, most contractors refused to even try. Some of the most dreaded conditions that horizontal directional drilling can face were involved in this one project:  rock, cobble and sand.

The entry and exit surfaces contained sand, and lots of it for 2 to 2 1/2 ft. Dry conditions, from virtually no rain for the past two years, had made the surface level sandy, very loose and arid. Beneath that was the anxiety-provoking caliche rock — with many stones up to 4 in. in diameter. Caliche is a sedimentary rock, a hardened deposit of calcium carbonate. This calcium carbonate cements together other materials like gravel, sand, clay and silt. Occurring worldwide and generally in arid regions, it is usually found on or near the surface, but can be found in deeper subsoil deposits too. The layers can vary from a few inches to a few feet thick, and multiple layers can exist in a single location. Within 20 ft of the exit was nothing but cobble where most of the 4-in. caliche laid. Needless to say, the toughest part of the run.

Beller thought this was the perfect job for their brand new American Augers DD-10 and seasoned driller, John Trammell. Trammel had been with B & H for more than five years as a lead driller, running several of their rigs. This 1,142-ft run of 20-in. steel casing was 12 hours from home in the dry New Mexico climate. All bets were against Trammel and his four-person crew completing the project, but 22 days later, well within the timeframe, the job was done.

“The ground was so rough, we had to run casing or else we would have had bent pipe,” Trammel said. In fact, the crew ran 16 in. inside 20 in. with spacers to ensure the strength of the hole. The pilot hole was driven in just 10 hours of actual drill time with a hole-opener/reamer. “Rods were spinning like a skip rope. There was no grinding,” Trammel said. The crew used 12-, 18-, 24- and 30-in. reamers to make the tunnel; the 18-, 24- and 30-in. reamers were pulled at once and Trammel observed that it felt “weighty.”

Trammel noted that the DD-10, on this Pecos River job, pulled an average of 75,000 to 86,000 lbs, pulling almost steadily in the 74,000- to 75,000-lb. range. “The rig withstood a lot of abuse (from the ground conditions) and never shut down. There was no downtime,” he said. It took only eight hours to pull the product in; which was a 20-in. pipe.

“B&H did a terrific job on the bore. Once they began, we didn’t have any doubts,” Weiser said.

Running long hours, seven days a week, the B & H Crew, with the help of its new DD-10, were able to withstand harsh ground conditions, sand storms and a gang of skeptics to accomplish a daunting task. Trammel, once quite skeptical himself, is now a strong advocate of the that drill rig. He is excited for its next assignment and looks forward to challenges ahead. Noting its toughness and ease of operation, he states, “The DD-10 is efficient and economical to run. It will be the workhorse of B & H Construction.”

Kelly Foos is marketing manager at American Augers, based in West Salem, Ohio.

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