Michels Installs Mammoth HDD Crossing in Texas

Crews from Michels Directional Crossing, a division of Michels Corp., have just successfully installed a record-breaking 42-in., intrastate crossing from Texas to Louisiana in excess of 6,000 ft near Orange, Texas.  
The unique nature of this crossing made it a first of its kind for the Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) industry, company officials said.

“Michels has performed several long distance large-diameter crossings previously, but none the magnitude of this crossing,” said Michels assistant operations manager Tom Breunig. “This size diameter alone is impressive due to the massive equipment and support required to install it, but mix that in with the length crossed and you have a truly remarkable achievement.”

Michels Directional Crossing was hired as a subcontractor by Sheehan Pipeline to perform at least fifteen 42-in. HDD crossings for ExxonMobile’s Golden Pass Pipeline (GPPL) Project. The Old River crossing located near Orange, Texas, took place out on an island across the Old River (Sabine Island), on the Texas/Louisiana border.

Heavy floods and storms battered many areas in Texas and kept crews from their original start date in February. Work on the pipeline had to be postponed until ground conditions improved. Finally, the green light was given in late May and Michels’ crews began work on this historical crossing.

One of the many challenges outside of the harsh weather conditions was getting the heavy equipment across the Old River and onto the island where the pullback was to originate. Sheehan crews loaded equipment from the mainland onto a barge where it was then taken down the river and unloaded onto the island. The fluctuating levels of the river experienced during this process further complicated the mammoth effort undertaken by Sheehan to support Michels’ drilling operations.


“This crossing went quite smoothly, especially for how complex it was,” said project manager Louis Barber. “Several of Michels veteran Directional Crossings’ personnel brainstormed, designed and fabricated a deadman system to handle the anticipated loads expected during pullback.  The hole-intersect went off without a hitch and reaming operations progressed ahead of schedule.”

And then just one month later, the record-breaking pullback was complete, Michels officials said.
“The drill superintendents out on the job have told me this was one of the smoothest pullbacks, from start to finish, for this diameter of pipe that they could remember,” Breunig said.

Pullback loads were within the anticipated range and were maintained by the crews using a specialized combination of proven HDD techniques developed from past experience on several of Michels more challenging crossings along with several innovations implemented to address the unique concerns of this crossing.

The weight of the pipe alone just sitting on the ground was approaching 2.5 million lbs. Given this weight, simply getting the ominous looking single string of pipe started into the ground at the HDD exit point was a Herculean task, let alone pulling it all of the way across to the entry point safely and without incident.

“During pullback, the idea was to maintain a consistent pace so that ballasting, drill fluid removal operations and pullback remained synchronized so as to not delay any part of the operation,” said Michels drill superintendent Jack Edmunds. “This pullback could have taken double the 23-total hours it took to pull the pipe back if it weren’t for the incredible job done by the entire crew in keeping up with everything.”

Lisa Sanders is a marketing communications specialist for Michels Corp.

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