This year marks the start of the second half century of HDD. Since 1971, when inventor Martin Cherrington completed the first crossing of the Pajaro River in Northern California, HDD has become a mainstay technique for installing a wide range of underground utilities. One thing that the COVID-19 pandemic revealed was the lack of consistent fibre optics networks throughout the world. Today, we can see HDD rigs everywhere upgrading these telecommunication networks to provide better bandwidth to support the increase in remote work and learning.
In addition, municipal infrastructure, energy pipelines, and electrical conduits are commonly being installed with HDD. Today, we are seeing HDD’s contribution to building alternative energy infrastructure such as offshore wind and solar farms further demonstrating the breadth of applications of the technology.
This issue takes a deeper look at HDD by exploring, among other things, favourable ground conditions, achievable installations, and the inherent advantages of adopting HDD compared to other installation methods. U.S. HDD rig manufacturers Vermeer, Ditchwitch, and American Augers continue to dominate the North American market, while Chinese manufacturers XCMG, DW-TSX, Drillto Trenchless, and Goodeng maintain large market shares in China and Southeast Asia. Apollo, the sole manufacturer of HDD rigs in India, was recently unveiled to meet their local demand. European manufacturers TT Technologies, Prime Drilling and Herrenknecht continue to have solid footprints throughout the region. We continue to expand the boundaries of HDD through a combination of improved equipment, better engineering design, and the ingenuity (and risk taking) of highly skilled contractors.
Today, you can go to all corners of the world and see an HDD rig installing a critical utility for the betterment of society. To my knowledge, the record length was a 5.2 km installation of twin 500 mm diameter steel aviation fuel lines across the Hong Kong harbour back in 2018. The USD166 million (€150 million, £126 million) project took 30 months for completion and had stringent environmental considerations. I have no doubt that we will see longer installations involving HDD in the not-to-distant future!
I have often been asked what I felt has been the biggest innovation(s) in the HDD industry over the past 25 plus years. To me, all sectors of the industry have continued to innovate to make the technology more reliable and effective; however, I would point to advancements in locating equipment/technology as the biggest improvement. From walkover to non-walkover locating systems, the industry has risen to the challenge of making HDD more accurate and easier for contractors to install pipelines over longer distances and increased depths. I am excited that the HDD industry has and will continue to grow in use as more and more stakeholders see the environmental, economic, and social benefits of adoption. Continued educational efforts by all stakeholders will go a long way in educating the public and other interested parties on the benefits of HDD.