Mushrush Utility Contracting Uses HDD to Weave Through Underground Infrastructure
Jason Mushrush has never operated a loom, and readily admits that his knowledge of the fabric creation process is minimal at best. What this experienced installation contractor and his team of trenchless equipment operators do understand, however, are the skills necessary to safely navigate horizontal directional drilling (HDD) equipment through a fabric of underground utilities; and how to mediate the challenges they encounter when introducing a new thread into an established infrastructure.
Mushrush is Vice President of Operations at Mushrush Utility Contracting, a leading utility installation contractor headquartered in New Philadelphia, Ohio. The company specializes in underground pipeline replacement and restoration services, primarily for utility service providers, for the benefit of residents in communities located throughout eastern and central Ohio. Mushrush recently dispatched crews to New Philadelphia to install an 11,000-foot gas line.
When complete, the new 4-inch HDP line - compliments of project owner and longtime Mushrush customer Dominion East Ohio - will enhance delivery of natural gas to approximately 220 residences. The job is just one of many completed by Mushrush on behalf of Dominion Ohio East in fulfilling the energy company's objective of providing customers with efficient delivery of natural gas and a plentiful supply of combined energy resources.
Dominion Ohio East is one of many among the portfolio of parent company Dominion, headquartered in Richmond, Virginia. Dominion serves retail energy customers in 15 states and is one of the largest producers and transporters of energy in the U.S. with more than 947 billion cubic feet of natural gas storage capacity. And aside from its energy-related product and service offerings, Dominion is active and visible in the communities it serves, supporting hundreds of civic and community improvement projects.
Among the many corporate causes supported by the energy leader, Dominion is proud to be among the first utility interests in the country to partner with the Troops to Energy initiative; a jobs creation program that helps place military personnel in rewarding energy-related careers.
Working Through Interwoven Infrastructure
The Dominion East Ohio project covers an area approximately six-by-six-square blocks in a residential area of New Philadelphia. Mushrush selected a Vermeer D20x22 Series II Navigator Horizontal Directional Drill because of its small footprint. The machine's 50- by 200.5-inch size is ideal for residential work, because the machine's smaller frame provides more options for launch site locations.
"The D20x22 Series II drill is ideal for navigating tight spaces, and its small footprint is perfect for the residential areas we're working in on this job," Mushrush says. "When we leave, we will have installed all new gas lines in this entire area, which will provide better services from the main line to the basement wall of every home. When we're done, the residents' quality of life will have been bettered."
At the bore launch site, two crew members sized things up in preparation for aligning and securely positioning the D20x22 drill. "We're going to complete a 480-foot bore right here in the midst of this residential area," he says. "As long as everything goes well, we should be pulled back by around 4 p.m.; then about an hour to tear down and get the holes safely barricaded. We should be out of here no later than 5 p.m., which, of course, will be a 10-hour day."
At the pipeline fusing area, another crew was hard at work preparing to fuse the individual pipeline links into one continuous 480-foot link. Once the bore is completed and stabilized, the entire segment will then be pulled back through and secured in its final resting place before being joined with the previous section. Having a crew assigned to fusing detail helps expedite the actual installation component of the job; yet isn't always possible if the space above-ground is insufficient to accommodate an entire fused segment.
"The more work we can complete ahead of time, the faster things go on the back end," says Mushrush. "On a job like this where we're installing in residential areas, we have to do some scouting in advance, and reach out to individual homeowners for their cooperation. We can usually identify areas above ground where there's enough area to fuse a fairly decent segment length together, and the process doesn't take very long, so even if we need to block driveways, it's only temporary. And we always have crews nearby in case something needs to be moved."
An Emphasis on Locating
The crew at the launch site finished stabilizing the D20x22 Series II drill in preparation to begin drilling. They were now positioned near a very narrow opening - where one crew member was in firm control of a 30-foot-long hose that led to the rear of a bright-yellow, trailer-mounted cylindrical tank; the other operating a squeeze lever connected to a second, smaller-diameter hose.
The large 800-gallon tank was flanked on the left by two impressive black cyclonic-shaped cones positioned directly behind a second tank - a rectangular-shaped configuration - all secured firmly on the platform of the double-axle trailer. According to Mushrush, on a job such as this where an extensive network of interwoven utility threads exists in the direct line of the bore path, the vacuum unit plays the leading role in the success of the entire HDD production.
"Working ahead of the drill, this crew is using a Vermeer V800LEHD Vacuum by McLaughlin to vac around all the existing lines, so we can identify precise depths," says Mushrush. "Minimum cover on the project is between 30 and 36 inches, so we're always encountering obstacles. The V800 vac is a huge help in locating utilities. If they're mismarked or we're struggling to locate a utility that isn't where it's supposed to be, the vac can locate it so much quicker.
"These locations are critical because the information will allow our drill operators to weave through the crowded underground most accurately with the boring machine. Approximately every 40 to 60 feet we'll encounter gas, water, or sewer line intersects. We added new 500-gallon and 800-gallon capacity vacuums this past year, and I estimate we are saving at least an hour to an hour and a half every day by locating utilities with the vacs."
With pre-production preparations now complete, the drill operator moves to the controls of the Vermeer drill. With a supporting cast composed of a 500-gallon mixing system helping to inject a continuous supply of drilling fluid into the bore path; his trustworthy locator to the drill head on the straight and narrow; and the vacuum duo out in front to expose utilities near the bore path ahead, the HDD boring production was officially underway.
"The key to success on any project - above anything else - is safety," says Mushrush. "At the end of a long, productive day, the most important thing is that our guys return home safely to their families and in good shape. Our number one goal at Mushrush is to work safe. When it comes to drilling, without a doubt, it's our locators. Our drill operators never take the locating duo for granted. Locators are the underground eyes that allow the drill operator to weave the drill head through the utility network incident free. Without the locator and the drill operator working together, trenchless contractors like Mushrush would not exist. It's as simple as that."