No Dig, No Problem

An Eco Drilling no-dig truck working on a horizontal directional drilling jobsite, powered by a John Deere industrial engine

Horizontal directional drilling (HDD) can be a profitable alternative to open-cut trenching — provided you have the right setup.

No-dig specialist Gunnar Guldbrand A/S in Tarm, Denmark, integrated a drill rig, mud mixing system generator set, and more into a new truck for customer Eco Drilling. But this didn't leave much space for another essential component: a 100-kVA generator. John Deere engine distributor West Diesel A/S brought the solution.

The business case for horizontal directional drilling

Horizontal directional drilling has been around since the 1960s, offering a no-dig (trenchless boring) option for installing or replacing underground pipelines, cables, and service conduits without disrupting the surface. This makes it a popular choice for busy roads and housing estates.

"A typical HDD project requires multiple pieces of equipment, including the rig, drill bits, rods, drill pipes, mixing tanks, power units, and a trailer to move everything from A to B," says Dennis Guldbrand of Gunnar Guldbrand. "It's an investment, but one that can pay off tremendously. The horizontal directional drilling market is expected to grow significantly by 2030*, as cities become more congested and contractors are pressured to adopt boring methods that minimize disruptions to traffic."

An overhead view of a horizontal drilling jobsite using Eco Drilling's trucks powered by John Deere engines

Gunnar Guldbrand helps contractors get the job done

Gunnar Guldbrand represents German directional drill rig manufacturer Tracto Technik in Denmark and Norway. The family company was founded in 1981 by Gunnar Guldbrand; and his son, Dennis, is at the helm today. The company delivers drill rigs and complete setups that help large and small contractors alike get the job done.

"Our customers' needs vary significantly. Larger contractors usually cater to a variety of drilling operations. They generally have a fleet of rig setups that they pull together themselves to meet the needs of each project," says Guldbrand. "Smaller contractors, on the other hand, tend to specialize in one type of job. They prefer us to deliver a complete, customized 'get up and go' setup. Every rig is different; I don't believe we've ever delivered two identical machines."

The truck challenge: A tight space for the generator set

Eco Drilling from Dokka in Norway is a pioneer in the drilling industry and is always looking for ways to get more done, more conscientiously. The company bought a rig truck to be able to tackle a myriad of drilling applications and jobsites while leaving as small an environmental footprint as possible.

With the rig and mud mixing system in place, there was only a 2.45-meter (8-foot) long space left for the generator. Standard generators proved too large to fit, and manufacturers were not open to designing a bespoke solution. Guldbrand reached out to Rasmus Sørensen at West Diesel A/S, the John Deere engine distributor for Denmark and Finland, to see if they had a solution. They did.

A John Deere 4.5L Stage V engine powering a generator set

The solution: a customized John Deere engine that fits like a glove

Eco Drilling had specified a 100-kVA generator that had proven itself in similar applications and would be backed by excellent after-market support. Sørensen coupled a John Deere 4.5L Stage V engine with a Stamford alternator fitted with a permanent magnet generator (PMG) exciter.

"The slot was really tight, but we found that by moving the AdBlue selective catalytic reduction (SCR) system to the right, the generator set fit like a glove while keeping all engine service points easily accessible for maintenance," says Sørensen.

The generator set runs two large 37-kW and 30-KW electric motors with a frequency converter.

Ready for the future

The finished truck allows for fast rig-up, rig-down, and re-deployment of the drill rig. Boasting a diesel-driven Grundodrill drill rig, a mud mixing system, and John Deere-powered generator set, it gives Eco Drilling a complete solution that is ready to start work in minutes. And it's already proven its flexibility in the field. In addition to the standard rig, Eco Drilling recently used the truck with a larger 80-ton rig.

In due time, the standard diesel-driven rig will be replaced with a full-electric one.

"With this in mind, we added the PMG exciter to the generator," says Sørensen. "It will supply any necessary extra voltage needed in the future."

Flexibility saves the day

Eco Drilling has been on the road with the truck daily for the past six months, and Gunnar Guldbrand has already received inquiries from other drilling contractors.

"We couldn't have made it all fit without Rasmus and his team. Communication with them is easy; they understand how generators are used in real life and are willing to customize even when it concerns only one piece of equipment," says Guldbrand. "Rasmus kept us in the loop throughout the generator set development process and delivered as promised. West Diesel's flexibility to review and modify the engine to fit it into this narrow space allowed us to help our customer with a unique solution."

All images courtesy of Eco Drilling AS / Jorn Soderholm, Praktisk Talt AS.


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