Michels Canada in Alberta

Michels Canada reached an HDD milestone on TransCanada’s Northern Courier project.



Michels Corp. closed out 2015 on a strong note in regards to Direct Pipe installations and milestone HDD crossings – both of which took place on projects in Canada.

According to Michels, with the completion of its 11th and 12th Direct Pipe installations, the Wisconsin-based company now leads the world with Direct Pipe installations. The work, completed Dec. 11, in Toronto were 1,300 ft of a 42-in. pipe and 823 ft of a 36-in. pipe. Michels is capable of using Direct Pipe on diameters that range between 36 and 60 in. and to lengths of more than 4,000 ft.

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Direct Pipe is a one-pass system for trenchless installations that combines a thruster with a steerable microtunneling machine. Michels has the experience and equipment to simultaneously complete multiple Direct Pipe projects throughout North America. In addition to completing the longest Direct Pipe installation in North America, Michels has successfully used Direct Pipe on projects that cross under levees, rivers, rail lines and international borders.

In November, Michels Canada and Michels Directional Crossings reached a horizontal directional drilling (HDD) milestone as part of TransCanada’s Northern Courier Pipeline project.

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Michels used HDD to drill beneath the Athabasca River and completed the HDD milestone on Nov. 21, a 42-in., 7,200-ft (2,195 m) crossing near Fort MacKay, about one hour north of Fort McMurray, Alberta. The 1.36-mile installation is a new record for Michels and according to Michels it is the longest in North America for a pipe with a 42-in. diameter.

Working 24 hours per day with two crews of 16 people per shift, the final pipe pull took 36 hours to complete. In addition to the HDD crew, Michels provided pipe support using 10 cranes, five side booms and three excavators to manage the pipe section that was a complex horizontal curve. The section reached 47 ft (14.3m) high before being pulled under the river at a designed depth of more than 230 ft (70m).

The complexity and sheer size of the project was completed using two 1.2 million lb. rigs on each side of the river for the pilot hole intersect and reaming operations. Michels’ 750-ton Herrenknecht Pipe Thruster was used to assist during the installation. Teams from Michels Canada and Michels Directional Crossings have been working 24 hour per day six days per week since mid-August. Subsurface conditions were challenging as crews encountered geology from limestone rock to silts and sands.

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Crews stayed in work camps and encountered typical Northern Alberta weather with ranges from 86 F (30 degrees C) to -4 F(-20 degrees C). This crossing is part of the Northern Courier Pipeline Project installing 42-inch casing pipe with six HDDs and one Direct Pipe.

TransCanada was selected by Fort Hills Energy LP to design, build, own and operate the Northern Courier Pipeline Project, which is fully contracted under a long-term agreement. The approximately 56-mile pipeline system will transport bitumen and diluent products between the Fort Hills mine and bitumen extraction facility and Suncor’s East Tank Farm, located north of Fort McMurray, Alberta. Northern Courier will consist of a 24-in. diameter insulated steel pipeline to transport bitumen, and a 12-in.diameter steel pipeline to transport diluent.

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