BREAKING NEWS – StraightLine HDD Announces Upgrade to Performix Mixers

New Silicon-Carbide Seal Offers Three Times the Service Life

Hutchinson, Kansas – StraightLine HDD, Inc. announced the implementation of an upgrade to its popular Performix Mud Mix System. At the heart of the Performix System is the centrifugal pump, which generates the best laminar flow in the industry. The performance pump now features an upgraded silicon-carbide shaft seal. 

Learn more about the upgrade, click here.

Compared to traditional ceramic seals, the new silicon-carbide seal represents a 3x improvement in service life.

Compared to traditional ceramic seals, the new seal represents a considerable advancement in resiliency when subjected to the highly abrasive elements present in mud mixing. In field testing, silicon carbide seals improve service life by a factor of three over ceramic seals.

The Performix pump retains its lubricated housing feature, which protects the pump seal from mechanical damage if the pump ever runs dry. The new seal is a direct, no-modification required, replacement to the existing ceramic seal.

HDDI, Inc. & RockEye Team Up To Score First Ever Bore Under Spring River

Location:                    Baxter Springs, Kansas

Equipment:              StraightLine HDD® RockEye 5.0 Hammer System on a Vermeer 36x50 paired with an Atlas Copco XRVS 1550 compressor.

The Challenge:

Oklahoma-based HDDI, Inc., received a contract to complete a 750-foot, 1.5- and 2-inch fiber conduit installation in extreme Southeast Kansas. The area, located along the historic Route 66, is noted for its tough limestone conditions. In fact, the Spring River location where the HDDI crew set up boasted a 100 percent horizontal directional drilling failure rate.    

Estimated at 30,000 PSI, the HDDI crew learned this particular limestone, part of the Ozark Plateau formation, contained a substantial amount of chert (i.e. flint). The result was a rock whose hardness was matched by an equally high degree of abrasiveness.

Part of the Ozark Plateau limestone formation, the Spring River location where the HDDI crew set up boasted a 100 percent horizontal directional drilling failure rate.

Entry and exit points on both sides consisted of an 8-10 foot layer of river sediment. The limestone layer, described by the crew as almost “shelf-like,” made entry angle critical. Additionally, the crew also learned the exit side contained limestone boulders resting above the layered limestone bedrock. Unknown to the crew at the time, these boulders would later become a significant factor.   

Read more about this bore's tough geology here.

Mud Motor Strategy Comes Up Short

Arriving on the job site, 26-year drilling veteran Jerrod Wood felt an abundance of horsepower would overcome the limestone conditions. Underpinning the strategy was the company’s Vermeer 80x100, paired with a mud motor. Setting up approximately 150 feet from the river’s edge, Wood wanted to give his crew plenty of room to achieve proper depth and flat trajectory (ideally in the +/- 2 degree range) by the time the mud motor head arrived at the river bank.

Running the 80x100, mud motor and PDC combo, the crew struggled from the outset. Production rates were an excruciating slow 3-4 hours per 15-foot rod. The chert/limestone also proved destructive to tooling. As days turned into weeks, the bore chewed up more than ten thousand dollars in tooling, including two PDC bits. Adding to the growing list of issues, the bore path was 15 feet deeper than desired and was at a -8 degree angle at the river’s edge. Wood, recalling the difficulties, said simply, “We pretty much tried every rock head there is and we didn’t have any luck with any of them.”

The HDDI team tried a variety of traditional rock tools, all with similar results. Wood later recalled: “We pretty much tried every rock head there is and we didn’t have any luck with any of them.”

Re-Thinking Tooling Choice

In re-thinking the situation, Wood recalled the success the company had drilling tough Nashville rock the previous spring using a 4.0 RockEye. Wood made the call: the company brought in their Vermeer 36x50 to run the RockEye 4.0.

Following up an impressive list of victories in the Nashville limestone, Woods’ confidence in the RockEye 4.0 was high. However, given the difficulty of the bore and the time already invested, Wood placed a call to arrange for StraightLine’s field engineer, Ron Becker, to consult on the job.

After arriving at the bore site, Becker assisted the HDDI crew in setting up the RockEye 4.0 hammer. As in previous attempts, the launch point was set approximately 150 feet from the river’s edge—however, this time, the rig would launch from the river’s east bank. An Atlas-Copco compressor powered the RockEye. 

With weeks time already invested in the tough bore, the HDDI crew wanted StraightLine field-engineer, Ron Becker, to come to the job site to provide guidance and counsel.

The original bore plan remained the same, including making sure the hammer’s bit achieved the right depth, and level trajectory by the time it hit the river’s edge.  The hammer entered the ground at 7:30 a.m. at a negative 18 degrees. Engaging the rock shelf easily, by the time the hammer hit the river’s edge, it achieved a 10-foot depth under the river bed, with a -2 degree slope—perfectly positioned to attack the limestone.  

Over the next 570 feet, the hammer traversed the varying rock layers, recording production rates ranging from 1 to 3-minutes/per foot. By 5:30 p.m., the RockEye had cleared the western bank of the river. Fluid use for the entire bore was less than 300 gallons—representing a huge cost savings over the mud motor. The speed of production put the crew days ahead of schedule. However, due to time restrictions in place on the job site, the crew shut down operation for the day.

Spring River Has One More Trick Up Her Sleeve

Energized from the previous day’s success, the crew arrived early the next morning to execute a rapid rise in elevation to the exit pit. However, Spring River had one more trick up her sleeve. Attempting to steer up, Wood felt the head began to bind. Several attempts at swabbing the hole netted no improvement.

Fearing breaking off in the hole, the decision was made to excavate to gain access to the hammer. As excavation progressed, the cause of the binding became obvious: just above the solid limestone seam—resting in a soft mixture of sand/silt—were extremely large boulders. The crew reasoned the unsupported boulders were pressing on the bent sub, which prevented rotating the hammer.

Still working days ahead of schedule, the HDDI crew calculated that spending a day excavating was much better than risking the loss of the hammer.  As excavation progressed, the size of the boulders encountered surprised the crew.  As excavation operations spilled into a second day, the crew realized excavation was not working as planned.  

Jerrod Wood at the controls of the Vermeer 36x50 and RockEye Hammer System.

For a second time, Woods’ HDDI team found themselves contemplating a change in tactics.  

Extending the Bore Takes Boulders out of Play

What the HDDI Team and StraightLine settled on was deceptively simple: Rather than trying to steer up through the boulders, the new plan called for stretching the length of the bore out another 250 feet. This strategy, would allow the hammer to engage the solid rock formation below the boulders, where the RockEye had already proven successful.

The strategy worked. Once engaged in the limestone, the HDDI hammer drilled the additional 250 feet to the existing bore on the fiber line within four hours. Despite the bore’s added length, the HDDI crew was pleased with the outcome on multiple levels.

FINISH! After spending weeks toiling unsuccessfully with traditional tooling, the RockEye completed the bore in under 14 hours.

First, despite adding 250 feet to the bore, the crew was able to finish the pilot in less than 14 hours. “Considering we were here for weeks, mud motoring without punching out,” Wood says, “the hammer shortened the project by weeks.” Second, using under 300 gallons, represented an enormous reduction in mud procurement and handling costs. Finally, the hammer displayed very little wear, compared to the rock tooling destroyed during previous mud motor attempts.

Jerrod Wood summarized the successful pilot bore: ‘We’ve been up here running a mud motor for about three and one-half weeks. We went through three rock bits and had nothing to show for it. With the RockEye, we drilled the length of the river in one day—without having the cost of running a mud motor or re-claimer. Even with the time lost spent excavating, we still came out way ahead.”

Custom Reamer Solution Features Customer-Defined Design

Two members of the custom fabrication team in action.

This custom reamer request falls under the “if you can dream it, we can build it” category. In this case, a customer contacted the custom team with a specific request. Along with a standard set 20-, 28- and 38-inch Maxi Barrel reamers, the customer specified a unique reamer design, tailored to a large job in the northeast United States.

Read more custom reamer stories

The design, dubbed a Flat-Faced Cutting Reamer, featured:

  • An open body design;
  • Bi-directional, to support both push and pull reaming;
  • Flat cutting face;
  • Massive box tube internal support structures designed to deliver large fluid volumes inside the stabilizing ring.

Hard-facing the 28-inch Flat-Faced reamer.

The order called for a total of nine reamers: three standard stabilizing Maxi-Barrels and six Flat-Faced Cutting reamers, ranging in size from 24-, 32-, to 40-inches in diameters. All reamers were mounted to 9.5-inch shafts.

See StraightLine reamers.

Along with the challenge of executing an entirely new design—including sourcing parts unique to the design and building the necessary fabrication jigs—the order called for a tight 3-day delivery window on the first three reamers, with the balance due in 14-days.

Given the short production window to fulfill the order, this was an "all hands on deck" effort.

A close up showing the generous hard-facing, cutting teeth and fluid jets.

Veteran Driller: “RockEye is Money In The Bank.”

“I wish we could have gotten one of these a long time ago.  It would have saved a lot of headache and a lot of time.”   -Steve Nierman | Nowak Construction

Even on short bores, inconsistent soil conditions are a major headache. The headache intensifies quickly when rock is present. Inconsistent geology—from variations in hardness and composition (solid vs. broken rock)—can limit production rates, accelerate tool wear and wreck steering performance, particularly when transitioning between rock layers.

For Goddard, Kansas-based Nowak Construction, incorporating the RockEye Hammer System in their toolbox, has transformed the way they tackle tough rock bores.

The RockEye 5.0 Support Pack hooked up to the Nowak Construction Vermeer 60x90.

Locating as the RockEye 5.0 as it transitions from soft soil into a hard limestone.

Read about Nowak Construction’s Otter Creek bore here 

We caught up with Nowak Construction’s Steve Nierman as they deployed the RockEye on a rural water bore in Southcentral Kansas. We followed up a few weeks later with Steve as his crew set up on a RockEye shot on the Kansas State University campus. Both bores, though separated by 150 miles, shared a similar limestone rock profile.

Operating the RockEye, Nierman reported impressive production rates, averaging 15 feet/per 20 minutes. Steering, Nierman noted, was also impressive, saying “We obviously had a lot of challenges in steering—the elevation changes, the big turn at the end and dodging the voids created by the four previous bores. The RockEye was exceptional.”

BREAKING NEWS – StraightLine HDD, Inc. Acquires Armadrillco, Inc.

StraightLine HDD, Inc. Announces the Acquisition of Armadrillco, Inc.

Hutchinson, Kansas – StraightLine HDD, Inc. announced the acquisition of Texas-based Armadrillco, Inc. The strategic acquisition of complementary products expands the portfolio of high-flow/side-load transmitter housings and rock tools targeting hard formation pilot drilling. The combination also solidifies StraightLine’s strategic position within key HDD markets.  The change in ownership was completed in February. 

Armadrillco's high-flow/side-load transmitter housings and rock tools complement & expands StraightLine's hard formation tooling portfolio.

“This acquisition is an excellent strategic fit for our tooling business,” said StraightLine HDD president, Joe Phillips.

“Both companys’ products are known for industry-leading performance and service life. Augmenting the StraightLine tool portfolio with Armadrillco demonstrates our commitment to expand our position as a world-class supplier of Ready-To-Work HDD solutions.”

The addition of Armadrillco products represents a significant move to broaden the
company’s portfolio of box x box/high-flow/ side-load transmitter housings, drill
heads and rock tools. “Expanding our product portfolio with innovative and patented
technologies is a fundamental piece of our growth strategy,” says Jay Cary, Vice-
President of Sales. “Product expansion, coupled with StraightLine’s established sales
and manufacturing efficiencies, will extend market reach of Armadrillco products.”

Initially, the product offering include several box x box/high-flow/ side-load and
slant-face transmitter housings, along with a variety of dirt and rock bits. Phillips says
plans are underway to expand the product offering over the next 12 months, beginning
with a number of new side-load housings in 2017.

The combination retains Armadrillco founder, Chuck Webb, as Territory Manager. Webb,
a HDD veteran as a driller and tooling designer adds decades of field experience to the
StraightLine HDD team.