GeoEngineers employees Mark Miller, David Sauls, Jon Robison, and Gary Castleberry participated in the 2018 Underground Construction Technology (UCT) Conference last week in New Orleans, Louisiana. After the conference Mark answered some questions about what he gleaned from the conference and the current state of the industry, particularly trenchless technologies.
Q: Tell me a little bit about the UCT Conference. What segments of the industry generally attend?
A: The UTC (Underground Construction Technology) conference is part trade show and part technical conference. It’s focused on the construction of underground utilities. There’s an exhibit hall that has booths from vendors in the construction industry. There are fewer representatives from the engineering community here, though. The presentations cover new construction technologies and equipment, case studies, technical topics, etc. There were even some contractor round-table sessions that were interesting to get the contractor’s perspective.
Q: What are the big issues in the industry this year?
A: One of the big issues in the industry for this year and in the future will be the regulatory process required for getting projects permitted and constructed. There is going to be increased oversight from the agencies as a result of recent project controversy in the industry.
Q: Were there any new technologies or techniques that you heard about at the UCT Conference?
A: One interesting technology from Herrenknecht is essentially Direct Pipe for small diameter pipes. Currently Direct Pipe is only suitable for pipe installations of 30 inches or greater.
Q: What was the most valuable insight you gleaned from the conference?
A: In the contractor round-table discussions the contractors expressed concern that most of the HDD designs they are asked to construct are poorly designed and they end up having to redesign them, thus accepting any associated risk.
Q: I know you gave a presentation on trenchless projects beneath levees with some friends from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. What did the presentation focus on?
A: Our presentation’s purpose was to point out some of the key components for permitting utility crossings over or under Corps-regulated levees. It was a very high-level overview of the steps that should be taken early on in a project to get the project permitted and ultimately constructed.
Q: It seems like GeoEngineers has become a leader when it comes to permitting and designing high-stakes pipeline projects under Mississippi River Levees regulated by the Corps. To what do you attribute that success?
A: Past difficulties and mistakes. Over the years, we have refined our approach and increased the level of detail in our permit submittals. We have also exhibited our expertise to the Corps during the construction of our projects when we’ve had to solve problems on the fly. As a result, the New Orleans District has come to expect a very professional permit submittal and construction expertise that our competitors can’t match. It’s our thing.