As the old saying goes, “Two heads are better than one.” Nowhere does this ring truer than in the world of horizontal directional drilling (HDD), where technology and infinite jobsite variables transform even the most mundane jobs into unique challenges. For contractors, having an experienced source to consult and bounce ideas and solutions off of is a valued asset.

That’s exactly how Tyler Gordon approached a recent job outside the community of Orleans, Ontario, Canada. Gordon, a 16-year HDD veteran with Greely, Ontario-based Marathon Drilling Co. Ltd., tapped the expertise of Marc St.-Onge of HDD Plus Inc.

The Project


The privately-held Marathon Drilling Co. received a contract from the City of Ottawa, Ontario, to install 600 m (2,000 ft) of high-density polyethylene pipe (HDPE) in Orleans, Ottawa. The 42-in. final product was part of an 8-km secondary water feeder system intended to meet the water service demands of a growing residential sub-division.
After reviewing the project, Gordon noted the bore contained sticky clay, typical of the area. The bore path was fairly straight-forward, with uneventful steering and elevation changes. The jobsite was tightly nestled between a commercial complex parking lot and a highway. Maintaining easement and dealing with soil conditions endemic to the area were nothing new to a veteran driller like Gordon.

Over a five-week period, the Marathon crew conducted the progressive reaming process. Each pass was carefully pulled and pushed to ensure the hole was being properly prepared for the next reaming step.

Over a five-week period, the Marathon crew conducted the progressive reaming process. Each pass was carefully pulled and pushed to ensure the hole was being properly prepared for the next reaming step.



But with nearly all HDD jobs, this one contained a couple of issues that required attention. The first was environmental. Contained within the 600-m bore path were three crossings, including a crossing of Rockcliff Parkway road and two creeks.

One of the creek crossings was of particular concern to Ottawa city planners. “The Green’s Creek crossing required extra attention,” explained Gordon. “This particular creek is a tributary feeding the Ottawa River, which supplies water to the city. So we had to come up with a bore plan to eliminate the possibility of drilling fluid intrusion caused by frack-out into Green’s Creek.”

Following an environmental study, the bore path was specified to place the bore at a depth of at least 10 m under the Green’s Creek bed. Planners were satisfied that the depth was sufficient to prevent intrusion into the protected water way.

The second issue Gordon faced was the sheer size of the utility to be installed. “One of the biggest challenges in completing the bore was the size of the pipe. At 42 in. OD — combined with the clay soil — I knew we had to have large machines turning a series of large diameter reamers,” recounts Gordon.

Marathon Drilling committed two rigs for the job: a Ditch Witch JT8020 and a Vermeer D330x500. The JT8020 was tapped to perform the pilot hole and 16-in. pre-ream. The D330X500, equipped with 5.5-in. IF Full Hole drill pipe, was specified to supply the 762 gpm of mud that was needed on the bore. In addition, a 1,000-gpm mud recycler was added to the mix to handle the large anticipated mud volumes.

It’s Good to Have Friends


Having specified the necessary rigs, Gordon turned to the critical issue of tooling. For that, he reached out to HDD Plus Inc. owner Marc St.-Onge. Based in Les Cedres, Quebec, St.-Onge’s extensive knowledge of local geology and tooling was instrumental in matching soil conditions and rigs to the optimal reamers for the job.

“The soils along the bore path were not necessarily hard,” says St.-Onge, “but, it was clear from the very beginning, flowing cuttings out of the hole was going to be a challenge.” This particular challenge was amplified by the fact that maintaining cuttings flow was key in stopping the reactive clay from swelling. Additionally, maintaining the easement on the bore would be difficult due to the need to make multiple reamer passes.

From that point, the pair spent considerable time weighing reamer options. Early in the process, StraightLine HDD reamers emerged as a leading contender. St.-Onge and Gordon were both familiar with StraightLine reamers. “I’ve had success using StraightLine reamers in the past and actually had a 16-in. StraightLine reamer in the shop from another job,” recalls Gordon.

As the list of reamer options narrowed, St.-Onge contacted StraightLine HDD technical sales specialist Lorenzo Chapman to validate their assumptions. According to St.-Onge, StraightLine had come through in the past when tooling was required for a specific job application. “Lorenzo [Chapman] has over 10 years of HDD technical experience. I knew he’d be a great asset when Tyler [Gordon] and I sat down to analyze the tooling needed for the multiple passes required to accomplish the bore.”

StraightLine’s Reverse Radial Flow reamers were selected, in 24-, 36-, 48- and 54-in. diameters, to perform the initial reaming passes. To stabilize the cutters during the initial passes, 22- and 34-in. Maxi-Barrel reamers were specified to follow each Reverse Radial Flow.

StraightLine’s Reverse Radial Flow reamers were selected, in 24-, 36-, 48- and 54-in. diameters, to perform the initial reaming passes. To stabilize the cutters during the initial passes, 22- and 34-in. Maxi-Barrel reamers were specified to follow each Reverse Radial Flow.



During the course of the discussions, all parties focused on the need to avoid frack-outs and fluid management. A consensus quickly emerged that an aggressive, open-bodied reamer design was needed to mix and shear the high volumes of drilling mud.

Again, Gordon and St.-Onge tapped the expertise of StraightLine HDD to help solve the issue. “In my business, part of my job is to connect my clients to vendors that not only have the right products for the job, but are also willing to apply their expertise to the problem at hand,” says St.-Onge.

After reviewing the details of the bore, the StraightLine team went to work. The company’s Reverse Radial Flow reamers were selected, in 24-, 36-, 48- and 54-in. diameters, to perform the initial reaming passes. To stabilize the cutters during the initial passes, 22- and 34-in. Maxi-Barrel reamers were specified to follow each Reverse Radial Flow. Finally, a 54-in. Reverse Radial Flow, followed by a 46-in. Maxi Barrel was selected to handle pipe installation.

According to Gordon, the Reverse Radial Flow reamer’s aggressive cutters and large fluid ports — in both push- and pullback — combined with its free-flowing, open-bodied design, provided the cutting and mixing performance required. Running the Barrel reamers in tandem with the Reverse Radial Flows gave the Marathon crew the flexibility to deliver high volumes of drilling fluid, while providing vital wall stability.

Outcome


Over a five-week period, the Marathon crew conducted the progressive reaming process. Each pass was carefully pulled and pushed to ensure the hole was being properly prepared for the next reaming step. From Gordon’s perspective, even with the multiple reams and the heavy burden associated with the fluid management, the payback was a picture perfect pullback process and a project that ran about as smooth as any he’d been involved with.
“I can’t peg any single factor that resulted in the smooth installation process,” mused Gordon. “But I do think that several factors combined. We started with a great plan. We also had great partners in HDD PLUS and StraightLine HDD.”

While the residents of Orleans might never give it much thought when they turn on the water tap, the water that’s feeding this growing community came about because a manufacturer, supplier and contractor came together as a team to achieve a common goal.
Joe Phillips is president at StraightlineHDD.

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