American Augers

Going underground

As a global leader in the dynamic underground construction industry, American Augers is a business that, facilitated by a thorough understanding of the marketplace’s requirements, is able to look ahead to anticipate its customers’ needs.

Now approaching its 40th anniversary, American Augers is in the enviable position of being an internationally renowned manufacturer of technology equipment for use underground, with a product range including state-of-the-art horizontal directional drills, earth boring machines, and oil and gas drill rigs.

The company, a subsidiary of Astec Industries, has a rich history that both attracts and reassures customers of its competence. American Augers’ product categories offer various equipment that promise rugged power and industry leading designs. The organisation was the first HDD manufacturer to eliminate chain and introduce a rack and pinion carriage design, which has since become industry standard, and has retained the distinction of producing the largest maxi-rig system available today. To maintain its front running attitude and deliver on its reputation for being innovative, American Augers has begun to diversify its product offering through entering the oil and gas sector with the launch of the American Directional Drill branded VR-500 drilling rig in 2007.

Describing the company’s credentials and commenting on this latest foray, American Augers’ vice president of sales and marketing, Dan Sharpe, says: “We’ve been in the drilling business for 38 years, being primarily focused on infrastructure and making products that drill under rivers and roads to put in utility lines and pipelines. Two years ago we moved into the oil and gas drilling business with products that hadn’t been used before but had been employed in utility work, such as rack and pinion. We worked with an American contractor to develop the drill, and since then we have delivered six drills to this customer. The rack and pinion is revolutionary to the industry – it’s safer, more efficient and more cost effective to operate. As far as we know this has been a unique development for the sector.”

Dan believes the advantages to a client’s operation of the rack and pinion system are significant: “It eliminates some of the traditional equipment that has been necessary in the past such as draw works, the cable and the crown. Additionally, you don’t need men working on the floor using tongs or chains, so the system lowers a customer’s costs in manpower and in equipment procurement. From an operator’s standpoint, the oil and gas industry is seeing horizontal drilling becoming more common around the world. With our drill with rack and pinion, you can immediately push, allowing you to make shallow turns for lateral drilling. With the traditional drill using cable and draw works you had to add weight to your drill. We can push immediately and put all the weight we want on that bit, which helps in steering and greatly reduces your risk of getting stuck in the hole.”

Although American Augers already works on a global basis it is looking to expand and, since it perfected the unit and the system in the US, its international agent network is introducing them globally. The company is in talks with firms in Norway, the Netherlands, Poland and Turkey. The first unit to be delivered outside of the US will be sent to Canada in February for export. Speaking about the rack and pinion’s system’s reception in the company’s domestic market, Dan says: “It’s been going well in the US; it has drilled in Texas and Pennsylvania, and wherever it goes there are people that see it from afar and pull over in their cars to take photos because they haven’t seen anything like it.”

The business is used to such attention as its innovative nature has placed it at the forefront in customers’ eyes since 1970. Indeed, commenting on American Augers’ strengths, Dan says: “Our innovation sets us apart in the marketplace – we’re the leaders in bringing technology to the market; the ones who, for example, developed and perfected rack and pinion. We undertook modifications and introduced it to the oil and gas industry. We have also completed other work in oil and gas, including vertical rig and pipe handling.”

Continuing to reflect on how American Augers has achieved its success, he adds: “We operate like a smaller company does, yet we have the financial backing of Astec, a publically traded company, so that builds a great deal of confidence with customers. We offer worldwide product support for all of our offerings.”

The organisation’s wide product range will be discussed at the upcoming OTC in May 2009 and the company has become something of an advocate for these events having attended conferences in Europe, the Gulf, Latin America and South East Asia over the past year. Taking a proactive approach to safeguarding its future is all the more pertinent at the moment, in light of the world’s economic crisis. Dan observes: “Obviously everyone is affected by the lower price of oil and gas but those will rise again as the global economy gets back on track. The world’s population is growing and demand for gas is increasing, particularly as a clean energy source – that will open up new drilling areas. What is challenging is that we have to start thinking outside of oil and gas, and start thinking of geothermal for example, which is a segment that will continue to grow. We can apply our oil and gas knowledge to this new green industry.”

In terms of how he would like to see American Augers progress, Dan adds: “I would like us to get a good foothold worldwide with our new vertical drills and in three to five years time I’d like us to be a major player in the drilling geothermal market.”

American Augers

Products Underground construction equipment