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Custom Excavators Power Pipeline Maintenance in the Wetlands

Stan’s Airboat and Marsh Excavator Service has become the go-to wetlands maintenance service for oil and utilities companies.

Sure, they take dryworks jobs, but wetlands excavation, land clearing, and pipeline are their specialties. Louisiana’s swamps are muddy. Wet sediment is heavy, and cutting the brush and trees around the right-of-way takes powerful excavators to dig wet trenches and clear the brush without getting stuck. These machines float with 20 percent or more freeboard, so there is no danger of slipping into a bog or bottomless marsh.

Essentially, a marsh excavator (a “buggy”) is a modified excavator that has a CAT body with pontoons attached, enabling crews to work in wet and muddy environments. Stan’s has buoyant excavators that get over the swamp and mud in areas where dryland equipment would sink to the bottom.

What sort of work is done in these marshes?

Stan’s really shines in the arena of pipeline maintenance. They work with project managers, supervisors, and inspectors at oil companies to clear trees and debris from their pipelines and “Christmas trees” in the marsh. Clearing this wellhead equipment helps companies like ExxonMobil, Epco, Shell, or Enterprise keep the oil and gas flowing from their wells.

“When we go to reclaim a pipeline, we may grub trees, we may remove stumps, we might cut bullwhip cattails—you name it,” says Liz Todd, President of Stan’s.

Stan’s marsh buggies can eliminate the costs associated with constructing temporary roads or mats to reach a job. Stan’s competitors use large excavators that can’t get near the pipelines in these remote, swampy environments. And when they do, they leave a lot of damage in their path. Stan’s buggies are small. But more importantly, they’re customized to handle this kind of work.

“No one else has our grubbers,” Liz says. “And we have modified our Bobcats with power packs to increase the power.”

These modifications give Stan’s buggies more strength and capability in tough working environments.

A power pack is a dedicated power source that gives these buggies more hydraulic horsepower while maintaining the advantage that comes with their relatively small size.

Other modifications are sometimes needed to perform specific tasks. For example, the Todds are the inventors of and patent-holders on innovative attachments and modifications. One of their modifications takes the tried-and-true bush hog and makes it more usable by putting the mower attachment in the front of the machine instead of behind it. With the rotary blades in back, the machine pushes the grass down, so a lot of the brush doesn’t get cut.

“Ours mows 100 percent of what it hits because it’s out in front,” Liz says.

What kind of attachments can be mounted on these machines?

Stan’s has a fleet of amphibious crafts designed to carry excavators, draglines, and other special applications; such as tiller attachments, sawblade attachments, bush hogs, and Denis Cimaf grinder/chippers. Bi-directional tiller operation makes top-cutting and under-cutting in either direction easy.

In fact, Stan’s has created and patented custom excavators, tools, and methods that are now integrated into the daily operations of their partners and have been adopted by the industry everywhere marsh excavation and transportation services are needed.

Start with the best

Whether you call them “buggies,” “marsh excavators,” “custom excavators,” or “amphibious machines,” Stan’s marsh buggies start out with Wilson Marsh Equipment, where they are built. Wilson has several models of amphibious crafts designed to carry excavators, draglines, and other special applications. Most excavators can be mounted onto these crafts.

Then Liz’s husband (Tommy) modifies them for the work Stan’s does.

These custom excavators have strong drawbar pulling capabilities. The high-torque tracking system may not spin the tracks fast enough to propel the machine through inland waterways, but Stan’s can tow the machines where this is the case.

The large footprint, low ground pressure, and high torque tracking system work to get these machines in and out of any pipeline maintenance job. Their ability to float comes in handy for crossing waterways or transporting down rivers too.

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