Directional Drilling

Not many people are aware that the modern technique of laying down utility pipelines and conduits is horizontal directional drilling. When you think about underground pipes, the first thing that comes to mind is open pits where contractors lay down these pipes. For many decades now, trenching or open cut methods have proved to be a challenging technique when dealing with above ground obstructions. Thankfully, when directional boring was invented, the utility industry found the solution which resolved many of the concerns associated with trenching.

Although horizontal directional drilling is a relatively new technique, it is making strides in the utility industry because of its benefits.

What is horizontal directional drilling?

Understanding the process is quite simple. A drilling rig creates a borehole on one end of the installation area and creates a path to the other end of the planned location. A drill rod attached to the machine produces the hole all the way to the other end. Once the drill head emerges on the other end, it is replaced with a back reamer connected to a string which gets pulled back into the hole. The back reamer makes the borehole bigger, sufficient for installing the pipe.

Selecting the right drill route

In creating the bore path, the contractors need to find the shortest and the straightest path possible. A short and straight path will aid in installing the pipe continuously. Typically, before the project commences, a geological survey is conducted to inspect the terrain. Identifying the soil type as well as all the possible underground obstructions helps in designing the right route, ensuring the highest efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

In choosing the entry point and the exit point, there shouldn’t be an elevation difference of over 50-feet. Both holes should also be within eye level of all above-ground obstacles.

Necessary work space for directional drilling

Although the entire drilling process will not result in significant disturbance, there should be enough space for machinery and other equipment according to the project size. A larger project means there should be enough space for more massive pumps, greater drilling fluid quantity, and the like.

Drilling fluid distribution

During the drilling process, a fluid consisting of water and bentonite lubricates the borehole. Aside from lubrication, another purpose of the liquid is to prevent the hole from collapsing and reduce drilling torque. Drilling fluid needs to be of the right viscosity; otherwise, any complications or uneven distribution will cause borehole failure during the drilling or pipe pullback.

Handling pipe pullback

Pulling back the pipe through the borehole is one of the most challenging steps in the directional drilling process. Pipes should be carefully handled, and there should be sufficient support to prevent damage.

Ensuring safety during installation

Every directional drilling contractor understands the importance of following safety standards in handling and operating each piece of machinery. All personnel involved in the process should go through proper orientation and remain compliant with these safety precautions to avoid accidents. By keeping the working environment safe, the project will proceed according to the intended completion date.