The proximity of the venue The Hague to the North Sea had obviously an effect on the content of the 15th annual congress of the Drilling Contractors Association-Europe (DCA-Europe). Many items of the agenda bore relations to water.

The annual congress took place Oct. 13-15, with conference participants attending interesting lectures and an exchange of experiences.

The 15th  DCA-Europe congress fad about 125 participants and thus perfectly fit into the well-attended events of the past years. In his introduction, executive secretary Dietmar Quante not only accented his delight about six new members who had joined the association, but also about the interest of participants from the industry who were not yet members of the DCA.

DCA-Europe president Hermann Lübbers offered opening remarks to start the conference. Key to success was DCA’s consistent advocacy for quality assurance during HDD drillings. Prerequisite were a skilled crew on the site. The association provided an important contribution with its commitment concerning training and education. “Many of our active members have been certified in the meantime and thus acquired a real advantage compared to those companies that are not certified,” said Lübbers. In order to meet DCA-Europe’s claim for qualification and quality, he invited all active members who were not yet certified to catch up in this respect within the next two years.     


The annual congress traditionally includes a look beyond the own field of industry. In light of recent events, the issue “Adventure offshore platform – Applicating the Deep Drilling Technology Offshore“ was on this year’s agenda. Expert Wilhelm Hohoff, formerly in a managerial role for example at Deutsche Tiefbohr AG (Deutag), however, did not comment on the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, due to the complex nature of that oil spill and the ongoing investigation at the time. Hohoff confined his presentation to an overview of technical developments in offshore drilling techniques — from the beginning in 1887 near the coast of California to the current state-of-the-art. Today, there are 121 swimming drilling rigs that can drill in water deeper than 1200 m. Transocean Deepsea Horizon that went down on April 22, 2010, had sunken the worldwide deepest offshore drilling of 9,189 m.

The European gas market will keep growing. That is the result Bert Kiewiet of Kema Gas Consulting & Services from Groningen found. In the future, liquefied natural gas would become more important. In order to meet the demands of the market in future, consisting in a mixture of regenerative and fossil energies, more flexible gas networks were needed. This required in turn additional pipeline capacities, predicted Kiewiet.
Extensive investments in the underground infrastructure of utilities and waste disposals offer a great deal of work for trenchless construction, most notably for HDD and microtunneling, predicted by Karol Urbanski of the Polish drilling company Nawitel for his home country. He said approximately 1.3 billion Euro were to be spent within the next five years to expand the gas distribution system that should grow by 1,200 km in transmission pipelines. And a considerable amount of money in the coming years should be spent on the expansion of networks for water and wastewater, as well as power and telecommunications.

Against this background is one of the fastest-growing HDD markets has developed in Poland since the first HDD project in 1991, which was performed by LMR. Today, more than 100 Polish construction companies operate more than 200 drilling rigs. Nawitel is well established in this field with seven drilling rigs between 50 and 2500 kN tractor force and six drilling teams, explained Karol Urbanski when he presented his company, which is one of DCA-Europe’s new members.    

A highlight of the congress was the visitation of Deltares in nearby Delft. This research institute is a member of the association. Visitors were surprised and impressed with the size of the institute, the dimensions of the test facilities and the scale of the projects. Deltares employs approximately 900 workers worldwide on issues that have to do in the broadest sense with the coactions of water, soil and underground. This includes projects in the areas coastal protection, bank reinforcement, fluid flow behavior, geomechanics or foundations, to name but a few examples. The institute is also engaged in problems of pipeline constructions. Regarding HDD, Deltares has developed the program Mdrill to plan horizontal drillings that helps to minimize the risks of a drilling under the consideration of constraints that can be very complex.     

The third day of the congress traditionally turns to the topic of practical experience. Spectacular drilling projects were presented, such as the tunneling of Le Havre’s harbor on a length of 1,460 m with two parallel pipelines in the so-called intersect procedure. Here, drillings start from both sides and the two drillings meet underground in a sector defined before. Prime Horizontal’s Daniel Billig noted that this required special standards for survey and direction of the drillings. Other issues included installing a gas pipeline on the Australian coast with a drilling of 1,850 m under observation of special environmental constraints and the performance of a 3,000-m long drilling through rock under the access of Milford Haven in Great Britain for the construction of a gas pipeline (here the intersect technique was also applied). Interesting was also an intra-urban procedure: Tightly confined space conditions at Berlin’s station Ostkreuz, the rail yard of Deutsche Bahn was tunneled 220 m with two parallel drillings at intervals of 6 m with an end-diameter of 900 mm. Bundles of pipes were pulled in, each with 10 HDPE pipes of 180 x 24.6 mm, in order to lay high-voltage cables underground.   
     
This article was submitted by DCA-Europe executive secretary Dietmar Quante on behalf of DCA-Europe.

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