An American Augers rig is a workhorse when it comes to boring holes under highways for pipeline extensions for Marathon Drilling Co. Ltd.

When the going gets tough at Marathon Drilling Co. Ltd., crews at the Canadian horizontal drilling and boring outfit call in the heavy artillery – an American Augers Inc. 60-1200 CAT auger boring machine with a reputation for making short work of big projects.

“It truly is a beast – a serious piece of machinery,” says Andrew McPhedran, vice president of business development at Marathon, based in Greely, Ont. “It’s a powerful workhorse that we rely on in all weather and soil conditions. It’s the backbone of our large-diameter, earth-boring operations. We trust its power to get us out of as much trouble as we can get into.”

McPhedran says the unit is one of only two that American Augers (owned by Astec Industries Inc.) built with a Caterpillar Inc. 250 hp engine, rather than the standard 174 hp engine, made by DEUTZ Corp. The machine delivers maximum thrust of about 1.2 million pounds; top output torques of 213,000 pounds; and can handle up to 60-inch-diameter augers. The unit weighs more than 32,400 pounds overall and is almost 15 feet long, about 7 feet wide and almost 7 1/2 feet tall.

“The challenge is controlling the power so it doesn’t break the augers,” McPhedran says. “It’s so powerful that it can snap the auger stems if it hooks up on a rock or something. We weld it to a section of steel railroad track, with 6-inch-wide flanges, and embed it in concrete.”

Getting accurate geotechnical information about the soil being bored and qualified operators are key to maximizing productivity. Operators must monitor the thrust pressure carefully by paying close attention to pressure gauges, which indicate the augers’ rotation torque and jacking forces. An experienced driller can tell what he’s running into by problems, the sound of the augers and the pressure gauges, he says.

Marathon commonly uses the American Augers machine all over eastern and central Canada to bore holes under roads and highways for natural gas pipelines. The company has about 15 auger boring machines in its fleet of equipment, and uses this particular unit for longer bores – typically anything longer than 300 feet. The unit can perform smaller jobs, too, but the size of the machine can make that impractical, McPhedran says.

“With this machine, we’ve drilled 30-inch-diameter bores more than 1,100 feet,” he says. “That’s a really long distance that many people wouldn’t even attempt to tackle. When you think about the immense weight of all those augers and casings lying in the ground, that’s pretty impressive.”

When Marathon crews aren’t using the 60-1200 for boring, crews rely on its push-and-pull strength to work in tandem with a large-diameter tunnel-boring machine to jack pipe in behind the units. “If you’re jacking in a 10-foot-diameter concrete pipe or steel casing, you need a lot of power to push it forward – and that’s exactly what the 60-1200 provides,” McPhedran says. “Whenever you talk about auger boring, the key is speed of advancement, and this machine can advance casings and augers very quickly. It’s a money-maker for us and is always very dependable.”

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