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New directional drill

26 August 2022

Citycare Water’s Directional Drilling Team has increased its scope with the addition of a new American 10x15 Vermeer directional drill to its kit in Taranaki.

This eight-strong team of specialists is based in New Plymouth but can travel throughout the region and lower North Island to share their expertise and operate three directional drills for clients.

Jobs the team are involved in include installation of electricity, water, sewer, telecommunications, and gas ducting.

Usually the work focuses on upgrading aged infrastructure in existing streets, but they’ve also recently been assisting with ward upgrades at Taranaki Base Hospital, ensuring the medical and support teams have access to the latest technology and data through new cabling coming in from the road outside.

The first job for the new drill was a water pipe lateral replacement in New Plymouth and it’s also booked for some night work, when there’s less traffic on the roads, to install power ducting across the state highway.

The Drilling Team Senior Construction Foreman Jerome Edwards says all three directional drills can be used simultaneously if the opportunity arises.

With good ground conditions, the machines can drill a distance of 100 metres at a time.

Basically, the directional drill creates the hole in the ground for the ducting and then pulls the ducting back through. The ducting consists of polyethylene (PE) coils up to 180mm in diameter.

Sometimes clients also utilise the crew to assist to haul the cables through the ducting as the final step in the process.

“The beauty of it is you have minimal ground disturbance,” Jerome says.

However, it can be tricky to work around the existing infrastructure and maths skills are required for working out the percentages for the locating part of the job.

The roles on site are divided between the operator, who controls and steers the drill, the locator who uses the wireless detector to constantly focus on the depth and direction of the drill, and other team members working ahead of the drill to pothole or locate the existing services to avoid.

All these roles are vital to the operation of directional drills and an understanding of hydraulics and the limits of the machines is important.

Most of the team have already qualified for, or are working towards, a Level 4 Infrastructure ticket.

Water is a crucial component of much of the directional drilling team’s work and they often have a water truck alongside.

That’s because the drill head, or sond, heats up, particularly when the ground conditions are rocky or sandstone. Water is channelled through two jet nozzles on the drill head and used for cooling, plus water lubricates the path of the drill and breaks down clay to make pulling the ducting back through easier.

A cutting tool can also be swapped out for the drill head and that is useful for stormwater jobs when a wider hole is required to be drilled. In that situation, the water lubrication creates a slurry of mud and makes it easy to  pull the ducting through.

Photo captions: 

Working on the directional drill in Taranaki are Foreman Mykel Eynon and Drilling Operator Mcleod Ryder.

Pictured with the new drill from left are Citycare Water Drilling Team Senior Construction Foreman Jerome Edwards, David Stewart (from the drill manufacturer Vermeer), and Dan Wharepapa (Citycare Water Drilling Foreman).

And, ducting installed with the directional drill.