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The Many Ways of Transporting Drilling Equipment

posted by the Epiroc Exploration & OreBody Solutions team

December 10, 2020

Drill sites can be found all over the world, often in some very remote areas. Getting equipment to these sites can be tough.  It’s always interesting to learn about the various methods of transport equipment suppliers and drilling companies use. Some of these methods may surprise you.

Many manufacturers will ship to the nearest train yard, bus stop, delivery service depot or building. After that the drilling companies use some creativity in making sure the equipment reaches the site.


This mode of transportation is not one that would surprise you. Equipment is often heavy, and a train would be a good choice for equipment that is large and weighs a lot. However, not all drill sites are close to trainyards, so the train will only get the equipment so far.


Transport by road may not seem to be surprising or difficult but a truck can face a lot of obstacles in delivering drilling equipment. When a drill site is remote and in a cold climate, road access is difficult. Oftentimes, the roads are narrow, ice-covered and treacherous and they may not be open for the entire year. If an unexpected thaw occurs, the ice may turn to mud, or water, which is common on Northern roads, making delivery just as difficult. The fear of sliding off a road covered with black ice is replaced with a heavy truck becoming stuck in mud or sinking into a nearby lake or sea.

Snowmobile and sled:

In the far north, when trucks are unable to use the roads or when the site is not near any roads, snowmobiles can be a viable option. The equipment is loaded on a sled that is pulled across ice and snow by the snowmobile. This sled is known as a “qamutiik”, built using traditional Inuit design techniques. These sleds are ideal for arctic sea ice environments and are still widely used for travel in Arctic regions.


Although most drilling is done on land, there are situations where drilling is done out at sea on a barge. In this case, the only way to deliver equipment is by water using a boat or other water transport.


Small planes such as Otters or Beavers have been used to deliver supplies to northern areas of Canada for years. These are single engine, propeller-driven planes that are ideal for the short take-offs and landing areas common in the bush.


Sometimes the only way to access a drill stie is by helicopter. This is the case for drill sites in very remote areas that are not accessible by road throughout the entire year. When you need to deliver equipment by helicopter, the weight of equipment becomes an important consideration and advice from a knowledgeable sales rep becomes crucial. They can recommend equipment that can be transported by helicopter more easily. For example, certain water pumps like the Elepump KT 45 weigh much less but are powerful, making them ideal for sites accessible only by helicopter.



Believe it or not, the mule is still used in many South American countries as a mode of transport. When the roads are too narrow for trucks, mules can carry equipment to drill sites. Workers in these areas are great at knowing how to load equipment with straps and saddles.



Sometimes the only way to get certain equipment to a location is to have several men carry it, as you can see in the photo below. This may not be the quickest way or the easiest but it will get the job done.

In addition to the types of transport listed above, there are also four-wheelers, ATVs and a variety of tracked vehicles that are all used in various areas. After reading this list, you can appreciate how important it can be to order your equipment well in advance and how important planning becomes. The farther out and remote your site is, the more stock you will need. Knowing what type of equipment and how much of it you will need plays a role in drilling performance. No one wants to shut down operations because you have run out of a particular part.

It may seem old school but make a list and check it - twice if necessary – to make sure you are never caught short. Make sure to think ahead of everything that could go wrong and of every part that can be worn out, damaged or lost. You can get a good idea of the types of things to include on your list here. Our goal is to help you improve drilling performance and accelerate the transformation of our industry. 

2020 Fordia