The utility industry is regularly required to call on an enormous and varied range of specialists; from mapping, to drilling, to wastewater treatment, to asset management, to pipe relining, to pipeline integrity, to land access, to risk management, and the list goes on. To make the process a little easier, Utility is bringing together experts from various fields to answer your questions.

Question: What are some of the key factors to consider in ensuring your HDD installation is successful?


Don’t take short cuts

After spending 25 plus years working on major HDD projects around the world, there is one golden rule that comes up time after time, and that is: don’t take shortcuts, do the right thing first time, every time.

If you speak to any experienced driller or superintendent who has worked on large-scale projects they will all tell you the same thing – shortcuts don’t pay.

Quite often site crews start to feel pressure from above, both from the client and from their own head office, once they start to fall behind program and “start to lose money”.

Typically there is a reason that the schedule is slipping, and generally it is not inefficiencies or inexperience. It is more likely that the initial program was unrealistic or didn’t correctly identify some of the challenges such as site constraints, geology or weather conditions.

This is the time when crews will then be tempted to try and save time by initiating a shortcut that they know isn’t good practice, but they think they can get away with.

In reality, they rarely do and this is when small problems start to compound. As most people have experienced with drilling, the stars very rarely align and you must make your own luck.

Implementing best practice even when all those around you are screaming for more progress does this.

Learn lessons

In larger companies with multiple crews, each driller or superintendent will tend to have their own way of doing things; their own favourite tooling configurations, preferred mud formula and site layouts.

Each supervisor will often be reluctant to heed the advice of other supervisors, until they too have learned the lesson firsthand.

This type of process can be hazardous and costly for the company. Even though each crew will be having these types of discussions on site about what is working for them in this particular condition and evaluating their performance, this valuable knowledge is rarely captured formally and is unlikely to be shared throughout the organisation.

If they are not doing this already, contractors should start to hold quick informal sessions at the end of each project to start developing their own rule book of best practice, that they can then rollout and employ throughout the business unit.

Only by continually evaluating performance can you start to achieve a professional outcome each and every time you go to site.

This feedback loop should also include head office to help them plan, create more accurate scheduling and develop accurate pricing.

Make quality decisions

Quality decisions can only be made if the organisation encourages open dialogue throughout all levels of the organisation.

If the boss is dictating the course of action without first hearing and evaluating what others have to say, it will rarely be a good-quality decision. Supervisors should use reasoning, including the evaluation of facts and figures, over intuition that relies purely on gut feeling.

To make a good-quality decision you should: define the problem clearly, evaluate doable alternatives, collate meaningful reliable information, determine required outcomes and use logically correct reasoning to commit to a course of action.

About Charles Stockton

UK-born Charles Stockton has been a part of the HDD sector in Australasia since 2003. He is the Managing Director of Stockton Drilling Services, a leading engineering consultancy specialising in HDD and other trenchless pipeline installation methods.

Lauren brings a fresh approach to content. While she’s previously written for publications as diverse as Australian Geographic, The Border Watch and Girlfriend, she’s found her true passion in her current role as an editor in the world of energy and infrastructure trade magazines.

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