July 5, 2023

Drilling at the Caledonian Canal

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A drilling rig will be set up at Neptune’s Staircase next week to drill under the Caledonian Canal for the installation of new power cables.

North east civil engineering contractor Nicol of Skene will be carrying out the work between the swing bridge on the A830 at Banavie, near Fort William in Lochaber, and the bottom lock on behalf of Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE).

The SSE project involves installing 33kv cables along the A830 Road to the Isles from Blar Mhor industrial estate to Annat Substation in Corpach.

Nicol of Skene’s contracts director Richard Stott explained that they would be using a Ditch Witch AT100 horizontal drilling rig for the work due to start on Monday.

He added that his company, based at Westhill in Aberdeen, had been doing the directional drilling for this project for the past couple of months, but drilling under the canal would be the biggest test of its skills.

A team of up to eight people will be operating the rig and the work is expected to take two to three weeks to complete.

Mr Stott said: “The rig, which is on tracks, works on the same principle as offshore drilling rigs, but instead of drilling vertically it drills horizontally.

“We are getting more and more involved in this sort of work.

“It tends to be used as a last resort where they cannot do open cut excavation and we do a lot of work in Sites of Special Scientific Interest.”

At Banavie, they will be drilling a total length of around 850ft, at a depth of about 30ft.

Plastic pipes that are almost 9ins in diameter will then be installed so the power cables can be pulled through them.

Mr Stott said that, at the end of last year, his company successfully completed a 770ft installation of pipes under the nearby River Lochy.

It has also completed 755ft and 295ft directional drills under the A830 Fort William to Mallaig road using the smaller Ditch Witch AT60.

And, another, even smaller machine, the Ditch Witch AT30/20, was used for a 165ft installation under the B8006 road to Caol.

As printed in the Press and Journal.

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