No Dig Madrid

For the past two days I have been at No Dig Madrid tapping in to the rich seam of ingenuity and practicality that characterises the trenchless industry. I have so many ideas for articles in Underground Utilities magazine that I am not quite sure where to start, from developments in sensors and locators; repair robots and pipe liners; pipe materials and filter systems to faster HDD rigs and clever innovations that combine tunnelling with trenching.

There are also the business stories too. The Iberian Society for Trenchless Technology explained that the Spanish downturn had seen some local firms turn to Latin American markets where they were making successful progress. I interviewed Spain’s leading HDD contractor Catalanade Perforacions who explained that consolidation in the local market had been a feature of the recession, and this had strengthened their position as market leader. However another feature of the economic crisis has been increased competition from leading contractors from Italy, France and Germany.  They also talked me though their clever Neodren filtration pipes, which are designed to act as intake pipes for desalination facilities (a feature will be in Underground Utilities next month).

The gathering was also the annual conference of the International Society for Trenchless Technology (ISTT) and exhibitors told me that they were pleasantly surprised by the diverse mix of visitors that they were meeting with. “We have had guests from Brazil, Bulgaria, Israel and Portugal,” said Digital Control’s European Manager Roger Dietz. Other’s too echoed this. “I have a client from Spain that I am meeting here about work in Chile,” said another.

I also met with Michael Brugh and Ed Heston from The Toro Company, based in Minnesota, US, which is celebrating its centenary this year. They talked to me about their plans for growth in the HDD market following their 2012 acquisition of Astec Underground’s HDD rigs. “This is a worldwide play for us. We think the long term math of the business is really solid and we predict some good high single digit growth within that,” said Brugh.

For more on all of these companies and issues see the Nov/Dec issue of Underground Utilities. A link will be posted here.

Ed Heston and Mike Brugh with the DD 4045, a mid size 40,000lb HDD rig
Ed Heston and Mike Brugh with the DD 4045, a mid size 40,000lb HDD rig



Seeking site stories……

The 450t Prime Drilling rig

For the most recent issue of Underground Utilities I was struggling to find a strong cover story. We knew that we would be looking at Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) but the theory piece and market overview that I had written was not going to make an exciting cover. Luckily VolkerWessels UK came to my rescue with the suggestion that I hotfooted it over to the Netherlands to see their sister company Visser &Smit Hanab deliver a new gas main for local energy firm Gasunie. Not only were they undertaking HDD they were undertaking it in several locations giving me a wealth of case studies to choose from. Most exciting had to be the banana bore which the team explained required a steep angle of inclination to get the 48inch steel pipe under canal sheet piles. Read more here: Autumn UU

As always I am very grateful to Tim, Jurre, Jeff, Joey, William and everyone else onsite that helped in the research.

I am now on the lookout for auger boring, rock drilling and vacuum excavation case studies for the next issue so get in touch if you have exciting projects to talk about.