Horizontal Directional Drilling on Vancouver Island - Growth and Challenges

By Grant Parkins - Procurement Coordinator, HDD Broker, Inc. - January 2, 2015

Since my introduction to horizontal directional drilling (HDD) technology, I have grown a strong appreciation for not only its environmental benefits, but also for the fact that it makes less of an impact on society's busy schedule.

Unfortunately, here on Vancouver Island one could say that the HDD industry is less than thriving. Despite a large population in the Greater Victoria area and its situation as the headquarters of HDD Broker, not a single construction company has had a drill on the island!

Last weekend, however, when driving past the storage yard for the Victoria branch of a prominent Canadian construction company, I noticed a new Vermeer D9x13 S3 behind the fence. The next day, a quick phone call confirmed that the company had recently brought the drill over to Vancouver Island from Alberta during a slowdown in construction there in order to do a couple of bores on the coast. The representative was kind enough to invite me to the job site for a few pictures and to take a look at the new model as it works.

Interestingly, this drill was purchased through a special promotion from HDD Broker over the summer of 2014, with a brokered swap leading to the acquisition of a brand new D9x13 S3 drill for the company.

During my visit to the job site, I was able to take some time to ask the operator for some feedback on the drill. The operator told me that he loved working with the drill - especially compared to the Ditch Witch that the company keeps in Vancouver. The D9x13 S3 was easy for the operator to use and had lots of power considering the drill's small size.

I was also able to speak with a couple curious locals who were checking out the drill in action - all of whom were unfamiliar with HDD technology. After I provided a brief explanation, all were left intrigued and impressed by what they discovered about HDD technology, but disappointed that it is not more common in our region.

The region of Greater Victoria, often referred to simply as Victoria, actually consists of 13 municipalities, of which there are four "core municipalities" which make up 57% of the region's population. Of these four municipalities, Victoria (City), Saanich, and Oak Bay have all ruled that all underground construction must be performed in an exposed environment, therefore outlawing underground drilling completely. Other municipalities have imposed regulations that make drilling permits difficult to acquire.

This is mainly due to the age of the city and its infrastructure (founded in 1843), as there are very few areas in Greater Victoria that have accurate underground mapping of existing utilities, with large swaths of the underground of the core remaining unmapped or with incomplete data. These factors, combined with the abundance of solid rock terrain, limits the HDD industry immensely.

While structural and regulatory factors may limit the use of HDD technology on Vancouver Island, there are other areas of the local construction industry in which HDD Broker can expand its services. When speaking to the owner of a local vacuum excavation company, I discovered that their modest fleet of five trucks is aging. They need to slowly sell their old equipment and invest in new trucks - a process which HDD Broker is perfectly situated to assist with. I have a strong feeling we may have some new listings for used equipment in the near future as such companies upgrade their truck fleets.

Although brief, my visits and calls to these local firms have been extremely interesting and eye opening. I was able to meet some hard-working men and get their report on drills right in our own backyard, and I look forward to seeing more industry activity in our region as underground mapping and drilling technology improves and education on the benefits of HDD technology spreads.


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This commentary is presented for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a comprehensive or detailed statement on any subject and no representations or warranties, express or implied, are made as to its accuracy, timeliness or completeness. Nothing in this commentary is intended to provide financial, legal, accounting or tax advice nor should it be relied upon. Neither HDD Broker, Inc nor the author is liable whatsoever for any loss or damage caused by, or resulting from, any use of or any inaccuracies, errors or omissions in the information provided.