Horizontal Drilling

How Does the Horizontal Drilling Process Work?

When it is necessary to lay a pipeline across the desert or in some area that that is largely free of habitation and traffic, the method of choice will often be to begin by digging a trench. Into this, the lengths of pipe can be inserted and, after joining them together, the workers can proceed to fill in the trench again and level the surface. However, there are also times when it might be necessary to lay a pipeline in more difficult terrain. Perhaps it must pass under a river, beneath a busy highway, across a residential estate, or in an area of natural beauty. In such cases, digging a trench is unlikely to be a practical option.

In the case of the river, the task would first require the erection of dam walls. After this, the trapped water will need to be drained completely before the digging team will be able to gain access to the riverbed. This is a major project in its own right and a costly one at that. The other cases mentioned each pose similar difficulties. For example, in the case of a highway excavation, apart from the resulting disruption to traffic, there will be additional time and cost in order to restore the metalled surface once the pipeline has been buried. Likewise, digging a trench on a residential estate or across a golf course will present its own unique problems and these are certain to add both to the total cost and to the completion time for these projects. In such situations, a far more practical solution will be to employ a horizontal directional drilling team.

For the team of specialist drillers, the primary objective will be to create a tunnel of the length and diameter needed to accommodate the pipes, rather than digging a trench. Into the finished tunnel, the joined lengths of pipe will later be inserted to complete the task. The process differs from that used to create a borehole or to drill for oil mainly in terms of the type of drill that is used. In this case, it is a more flexible drill assembly that can be steered remotely. This ability to steer the drill bit allows the operator to create a shaft at almost any angle from the vertical that they may choose. In general, when the purpose is to lay a pipeline, that angle will remain fairly close to being parallel to the surface.

It is an approach that offers several important advantages when it is compared with the older trenching technique. The use of a horizontal directional drilling rig not only offers a means to avoid any unwelcome disruption to traffic or human activities but it is also less labour-intensive, as well as being faster, cheaper, and more environmentally friendly. At first glance, attempting to create a shaft that runs parallel to the surface rather than straight down in the traditional manner might appear to be a tough challenge; however, the right equipment in the right hands has served to make horizontal directional drilling technology the preferred option in just about every situation today.

Directional Drilling

Before the drilling can commence, the first step will be to conduct a survey of the land which is to be drilled. This is necessary in order to plot the most practical route for the proposed pipeline. Having identified the starting and endpoints of the proposed tunnel, the drilling can commence. The drill train is inserted at an angle and drilling continues until the planned depth has been reached. At this point, the operator will steer the drill bit until it is oriented horizontally and then proceed to guide it along the previously planned route. Should an unexpected obstruction be encountered, the operator can steer the drill over, under, or around it, as indicated.

The progress of the drill can be monitored from the surface with the aid of suitable sensors and this allows the operator to ensure that it remains on the planned course. Due to the narrow diameter of the drill train, this initial shaft will then need to be enlarged. To achieve this, a reamer of suitable diameter is first attached to the drill rig and then its direction of travel is reversed so as to create an aperture that will be sufficiently wide to accommodate the pipeline. Talk to us about our horizontal directional drilling services today.