Southern Indiana Drilling works for nine steady quarry clients in a 60-mile radius of its Scottsburg, Ind., headquarters.

Don Powell of Southern Indiana Drilling works an area he refers to as a driller’s paradise. He and his six drillers work for nine steady quarry clients in a 60-mile radius of their Scottsburg, Ind., headquarters.

Vice president of Atlas Copco independent distributors, Tom Borer, has known Powell for years. He says the longevity of Powell’s client relationships is not just about regional opportunity, attributing Powell’s success to his expertise and reliability. “He’s one of the best drillers I’ve ever known,” Borer says, adding that Powell does whatever it takes to get a job done. “When that has meant staying 20 hours on a job, Powell has done it. His clients know he will not let them down.”

His equipment has the same reputation. Borer relates: “It’s ridiculous how much life Don gets from his equipment – rigs, bits, everything.” He still owns and operates every rig he ever purchased since 1994, starting with his first Ingersoll-Rand T4. He remained loyal to the brand through its 2004 acquisition by Atlas Copco. His most-recent purchase is an Atlas Copco ROC L8. Powell works with Atlas Copco distributor Brandeis Machinery and Supply, and counts on his sales representative, Doug Flynn, to help him with what he needs.

Borer gestures toward two Ingersoll-Rand T4BH rigs receiving preventive maintenance this day from Powell’s crew on an asphalt pad that the Sellersburg Stone quarry made for them. The first, a 1994, has more than 20,000 hours on it. Neither it nor its sister rig, the 1990 model next to it, have been refurbished. “I really should take them in for refurbishing,” Powell says, explaining that he’s just too busy. He can’t take these rigs out of production. Nor does it seem all that necessary.

Borer credits Powell for keeping his machines in shape: “They are running great. He keeps them in good shape.”

When asked just how hard these rigs work for him, Powell answers, “I put 65,000 feet on one in one month – that was a really good month.” It was during a record year for the quarry, which yielded nearly 3 million tons of aggregate. This year, it will make 1.5 million tons.

Powell owns seven rigs – three T4 rigs, a DM-45, an ECM 720, an ECM 690 and a brand-new Atlas Copco ROC L8. All of his rigs except for the DM-45 are on the job every day. He used to do stripping work with the DM-45, which is just too big for the quarry bench work he does today. He keeps it on hand in case a quarry should want to expand and then need a great deal of overburden removed.

When Powell bought his most recent acquisition – the ROC L8 – it wasn’t a replacement rig or an upgrade; it was an addition. The new L8 looks as though it will continue the legacy of its processors. Only six months on the job, it already has more than 75,000 drill feet on it.

In this quarry, the L8 is used in place of a T4. The L8’s hefty compressor delivers 865 cfm at 350 psi, which is ample enough to keep pace with a T4 on the 40-foot limestone benches. Rate of penetration here between the two is comparable in the quarry’s level, good-quality limestone. The two rigs will average 31⁄2 feet a minute. The T4 trips a little faster because it has fewer sections to makeup and breakout for the same distance – just three rods to the L8’s four or five. However, the L8 shines in this quarry work because it offers rapid setup on these benches. It does not need to lower its boom to move about from hole to hole or pattern to pattern, and the boom itself can move forward, backward and to the side for lining up quickly on pattern targets.

The L8’s operator never leaves the cab to switch from driver to operator, never even changes position, in fact. Its dual oscillating tracks can handle rougher terrain and drilling attitudes. While he has plenty of utility for his T4s, Powell says the L8 is more productive at less cost in this quarry application. Unless you are the L8’s assigned driller, Chris Greenwood, you won’t ever get the opportunity to run Southern Indiana Drilling’s L8. And if you are thinking of waiting for it to break down to get a deal on it, good luck.