By Conrad Prabhu — Omani rock blasting heavyweight celebrates milestone — MUSCAT — A drilling and blasting firm whose expertise has been imperative to the successful implementation of some of the largest infrastructure projects in the Sultanate is celebrating 25 years of operations this year.
Technical Services & Rock Blasting Co LLC (Techrock), part of Muna Noor Incorporation, is credited with undertaking more than half of all drilling and blasting projects carried out in Oman over the past quarter of a century. The company has so far blasted in excess of 65 million cubic metres — equivalent to a staggering 178 million tonnes — of rocks as part of the execution of various projects, such as roads, tunnels, quarrying and mining activities, construction of oil and gas pipelines, seismic exploration, and underwater excavation.
“Techrock is the largest drilling and blasting (D&B) company in Oman, and along with its sister company ‘Techdrill UAE’, we are probably the largest Drill & Blast Company in the Middle East with a compliment of over 60 state-of-the-art self-contained hydraulic drill rigs,” says Ian Bradley, D&B Manager, Techrock.
Oman’s challenging geology and topography makes the task of blasting companies like Techrock crucial in the implementation of major infrastructure projects, particularly in mountainous areas, says Bradley. “Take the Hasik-Shuwaymiyah road project for example! The geology in this area of Oman is very hard. Therefore, without drilling and blasting operations it would be very costly and a time-consuming exercise to excavate such huge volumes by mechanical means in the timeframe given by the client.”
With scores of successfully completed projects behind it, Techrock has earned a place as one of the foremost drilling and blasting companies in the industry. Recent contracts undertaken by the company include blasting works for the Muscat Expressway, Bausher-Amerat, and Hasik-Shuwaymiyah road projects on behalf of Galfar, the Madinat Ring Road for Desert Line, and the Amerat-Qurayat road for NCC.
Other major projects that saw Techrock in action were: Al Jabal al Akhdar road, Bandar Al Jissah road, Sohar-Dhahirah road project, dualisaton of Bausher-Amerat road, Al Hoota Cave tunnel, Birkat al Mouz road, Rustaq-Miskin road, and a host of pipeline and quarrying projects.
Among the most challenging was the 750-kilometre-long Saih Rawl — Salalah gas pipeline project, the timely execution of which was a testament to Techrock’s prowess, says Bradley. “The drilling operation had to be continuous and therefore required 14 drill rigs working 12 hour per day 7 days a week in order to maintain sufficient distance from the blasting crew. The blast crew’s daily target was to blast 1.5 km to 2 km of trench per day. This would consist of loading over 8 tonnes of explosives into 2,500 blast holes.
This part of the project was arduous work, with temperatures exceeding 47oC during the summer months.” Among the most prestigious was the tunnelling works carried out as part of the Al Hoota Cave Project. “The overall length of the tunnel was around 150 metres which would eventually provide access to the huge cavern. Due to the delicate structure of the stalagmites and stalactites inside the cavern, controlled blasting was carried to keep ground-borne vibrations to an absolute minimum."
Equally demanding for the company were drilling and blasting works carried out as part of the Muscat Expressway. Over 10 million cubic metres of hard limestone were blasted away as part of the project, often in inaccessible areas along the alignment. In the Amerat — Qurayat road project, the alignment’s proximity to villages required the use of controlled blasting techiques to minimise ground-borne vibrations. Some 10 million tonnes of rock were also blasted away along the alignment of this carriageway.
With investments continuing apace in new road and infrastructure projects, Bradley is confident that companies like his will have healthy orderbooks during the foreseeable future. In particular, Large volumes of work will be in store when the government kicks off construction of the multibillion dollar national rail project.
“Drilling and Blasting (D&B) will play a big part in this project, directly and indirectly. Directly, corridors and tunnels will need to be blasted through the mountainous and rocky areas. Indirectly, ballast blasted from local quarries will be required in large volumes. The alignment will dictate how much blasting will be required overall, but Techrock is expecting to play a major role in this project due to our specialised experience in tunnelling.”
As to the size of Techrock’s order book, Bradley comments: “At present, our order book is full, but we always have enough room for (more). 2012-2013 will be a busy year for Techrock as we expect to drill and blast over 10 million cubic metres of rock from ongoing projects and new road projects which are planned throughout the Sultanate of Oman.”