Meet the borehole boss Richard Lane

Richard Lane is the General Manager of WB & AD Morgan (Morgans), which is a SafeLane Global company specialising in drilling boreholes for water and ground source heat - today he (reluctantly) steps into the Staff Spotlight!

Richard joined SafeLane prior to the acquisition of WB & AD Morgan to diversify the company’s drilling services.

Today we discover more about his passion for all things engineering, and why he’s leading a green energy revolution for the UK’s housing developers and councils.

Tell us about your engineering background and why you joined SafeLane Global

I wanted to be a racing driver but studied civil engineering instead.  I could pretend it’s because I have a passion for bridges and dams – but really it just seemed like a solid subject to study.  (I don’t have a passion for bridges and dams…)

After qualifying I’ve been working in specialist drilling ever since really, now focusing on water wells, geothermal and geotechnical.

I joined SafeLane nearly 3 years ago primarily to diversify the drilling side of business.

I am about the only person within the entire company who knows very little about UXO except that it’s dangerous!

You joined SafeLane as a Senior Operations Manager for our engineering services and then promptly fell off the radar, what happened?

Ah yes, well, within the first 6 months I helped my colleagues win a significantly substantial and complex engineering project for one of the largest construction operations in the UK.  I can’t say much more about it as it’s subject to the Official Secrets Act.

So, I went off to run that – I think a lot of people thought I’d failed my probation and so they were surprised when I turned back up after the project was successfully completed.

You can’t leave us hanging – we need to know more about this top-secret engineering project

Well, we ran a sensitive project using drilling rigs to identify potential unexploded ordnance threats.  I managed the job, which included dealing with 75 sub-contractors.

We were on site for a year – and we ended up sinking caissons and using specialist explosive ordnance disposal divers to do black water fingertip UXO identification tasks.

That’s your lot – my lips are sealed!

So, when you resurfaced, what did you do next at SafeLane?

I helped Adam (CEO) and Rob (CFO) understand the level of opportunity in this country for specialist drilling contractors who can bore for water for commercial clients, and who can also tap into geothermal energy for heating and cooling.

Together we identified WB & AD Morgan as a mergers and acquisition target.  I left them to do the negotiations and then jumped on board as soon as the purchase was done.

I had a fantastic hand over from former owner Brian Morgan, and I inherited unarguably the best possible team in the world!

What’s the best thing about your job as General Manager of a drilling company – or is it all boring (sorry, couldn’t help it)?

Well, it’s not dealing with the marketing team that’s for sure…

Probably the best bits are the interesting and varied projects we undertake and the day-to-day technical planning that these projects need.

I also genuinely do have a fantastic team.

You’ve said that already – give us more!

I like that SafeLane is an open-minded and forward-thinking company where ideas are valued and commitment and passion are encouraged and rewarded.

I like knowing that I work within a dynamic company led by people with vision.

What have you learned since joining SafeLane?

Well, I’ve learned a lot more about UXO from my esteemed colleagues that’s for sure!  As a specialist drilling engineer, I have always been acutely aware of the risks of unexploded bombs and munitions – and have always followed CIRIA

Now however, I know more than is probably good for me!

That doesn’t mean you do your own UXO risk assessments does it?

Oh no, don’t panic!  When I was working on the aforementioned secret job, I had my own explosive ordnance disposal engineer following my every move.  In fact, he’s going to be working with me on one the latest big project that’s in the planning.

Tell us more…

Well, we are about to begin the installation of boreholes for a large ground source heating project in London.  It’s on a brownfield site and so we need to have an EOD engineer on site with us providing a watching brief.

The client is a major UK housing developer, and our boreholes will supply ground source heat pumps with the water they need to heat every single new property on this construction site.

What other borehole projects do you have in the planning?

We are about to begin drilling for a district heating scheme for a council in the North of England.  We will be drilling into former mine workings and taking otherwise redundant, contaminated water and using it to heat hundreds of homes.

We proved the concept last year with our good friends from Dunelm and Durham council – and now we’re the go to company for councils and coal boards who want to use mine water for geothermal heating.

Drilling into mines for geothermal heat sounds technically complex?

I have some of the best and most experienced personnel in the industry in both technical and operational roles.  There is nothing we cannot do.

Tell us some of the jobs you’ve had to rescue where other drilling companies have – errr – well, got it wrong?

I won’t mention any names, but we drilled a commercial water well recently where another contractor had collapsed a well and almost lost their rig down it. 

We also regularly get called in to save sites from flooding after others have hit artesian aquifers

We’re working on a job in Wales at the moment, and it’s a site and client we know really well.  There is artesian pressure at a specific depth, and we’re using it to our advantage to boost supply pressure. 

However, on a site nearby, other drillers who had no idea of the ground’s properties hit artesian pressure and promptly departed!  Luckily, we were close by and able to help.

How has COVID impacted on WB & AD Morgan drilling and maintenance operations? 

We have clients and companies that rely on us for their sole supply of water.  For example, we support the big water utility companies with boreholes.  So, we have had to continue operations – but as carefully as possible.

We also have homeowners who have private boreholes – these wells need regular servicing and maintenance.

We are fortunate to have the support of SafeLane head office with dedicated QHSE professionals and a Covid Committee, so, we’ve had all the guidelines and safety measures, the PPE and the training.

We therefore remain fully operational for all our clients and are proud to serve them with their water and heating needs.

Finally, where next for Richard Lane and Morgans?

The future is exceptionally bright.  With Board support, Morgans is going from strength to strength. 

The projects we’re undertaking are getting bigger and more complex.  This keeps me very happy because I love helping potential clients understand the clean and green ways we can support them – and I love planning to overcome even the trickiest challenges like complex ground conditions for example.

The open loop ground source heating side of the business is growing, and we’re focussing more on advancing the borehole geophysics side of things too.

I also plan to open a subsidiary of the drilling arm of SafeLane in Italy, probably on the shores of Lake Como.  Obviously, I’ll have to live out there full time – funnily enough I have yet to persuade Adam and Rob that it’s a good idea…