Directional drilling broadly describes different techniques in boring which do not result in a vertical bore. There are some instances when while creating a vertical well, drilling may commence at a different direction to avoid a geological formation or pre-existing pipeline. The side-tracking method used is also considered directional drilling.
In the utility industry, directional drilling companies provide valuable resources needed to complete drilling projects to lay pipes for telecommunications, electricity, water and gas. Advanced techniques in engineering have greatly enhanced HDD methods since the early inception of the technology.
What makes HDD a valuable technique in the utility industry?
One of the many challenges with pipe installation for utility services is the presence of above-ground obstacles. Ever since directional drilling became a mainstream method, many projects have used the technique because it results in minimal ground disruption. In addition to this, there are many other benefits to HDD:
- Depending on the project, it can be cheaper than conventional trenching
- Faster drilling and installation process
- Does not impact the surrounding environment
- Allows for pipe installation underneath populated areas and urban locations
- Can navigate around a pre-existing network of pipes which is a common challenge when working with urban project settings
- Suitable for a variety of ground and soil conditions
- Can navigate under obstructions such as rivers, streams, and rock formations
- Fewer workers and resources needed to complete a project
Directional drilling can at times, be an unsuitable solution to a project. Nevertheless, many project managers still look into whether HDD is not cost-prohibitive and is the optimal method to use before resorting to conventional trenching.
The role of technology in the success of HDD
Horizontal directional drilling has evolved significantly through the years, and technological innovations have helped improve the success rate of these projects. Many have wondered what makes drill rigs capable of navigating underground. Drill rigs have a built-in guidance system which reads and surveys the ground underneath to ensure that the bore path created is followed.
There is also sophisticated software coupled with these rigs which function using sensors and GPS technology. Drill bits are also fitted with sensors that can detect when there is an obstacle in the drill path. From the drilling surface, there are electromagnetic sensors that track the progress. In addition to the capability of monitoring what goes on underneath, engineers can also use available information to determine whether there are unexpected obstacles that may require adjustment to the bore path.
Can drill rigs make turns?
For someone who is not familiar with the technology, it is difficult to imagine how a drill rig can suddenly change direction. Nowadays, there are down hole drill motors that can allow a drill bit to change direction by up to 180 degrees. This feature has proven useful in situations when the external survey and samples of a project site did not provide sufficient information on all obstacles underground as well as the soil condition.
There is no doubt that the utility industry has benefited greatly from directional drilling. Cities and congested urban locations no longer pose an impossible obstacle to adding new pipes and conduits, especially for telecommunications providers.