Laney Celebrates 20 Years As Large HDD Pioneer

By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | November 2009 Vol. 64 No. 11

Throughout 2009, the Laney Directional Drilling Co., Humble, TX, has been celebrating its 20th year in business.

Laney founders Marcus, Dickey and Steve Laney, along with Robert Hamil, perceived the need for a specialty contractor to make horizontal directional drilling crossings on pipeline projects before the HDD industry had even been firmly established. Today, Laney is recognized as one of the world's leading pipeline directional drilling contractors.

In 1989 when Laney Directional Drilling opened for business, HDD was still an unproved option for underground utility construction, not seriously considered by most project owners. For large pipeline projects, HDD offered an option for making crossings under rivers and other bodies of water, highways and areas where excavation was impossible or impractical.

An early challenge was the lack of equipment to make trenchless pipeline crossings. Laney's solution was to design and build its own HDD rigs.

"The company's principals had built drill rigs for others, so it made sense at the time to develop equipment that met our specific needs," said Grady Bell, vice president of business development. Marcus Laney emphasized that having the benefit of Robert Hamil designing and building the machines greatly simplified the task.

"Rig 1 had pullback capabilities of 70,000 pounds," said Bell. "We still have the machine, although it hasn't been used lately because we seldom do small jobs anymore."

Self-built rigs
Laney has built its own HDD rigs ever since, a fact that sets it apart from other HDD specialists. Laney built drilling equipment quickly got larger: Rig 4 1992 has 350,000 pounds of pullback and in 2005, the company built and still owns and operates what is believed to be the largest HDD drill rig in existence, a 1.7 million-pound pullback model. The machine is powered by two 1,000 horsepower Caterpillar engines.

However, Laney does not consider itself a HDD manufacturer.

"We first built drill rigs because of necessity," said Bell. "Over the years, we have built 23 machines. We did sell a couple, and there were several we did not keep after completion of joint ventures. But we haven't been interested in producing rigs for sale – we prefer that no one else in the industry have them."

Laney has all the necessary equipment to support its HDD rigs, including fluid recovery systems, and transport trucks and trailers to transport the large machines.