Tag Archive for 'horizontal directional drilling (HDD)'

Steering Through Sandy Soils

Horizontal Boring & Tunneling Co. Upgrades Garden City Sewer System

By Neville Missen

The economy in Garden City, Kansas, is strong with the recent opening of a Dairy Farmers of America plant. Approximately 4 million pounds of milk from regional farmers make its way to the dairy plant each day, which has led to expansion for many other companies throughout the area. To keep up with the expected growth from the dairy industry and other retail stores being constructed nearby, Garden City is upgrading existing utilities to ensure they are prepared to handle current and future needs.

Garden City’s most recent project involves upgrading its existing sewer system to larger diameter piping near the dairy plant. While most of the work is being done using open-trench methods, there are several road crossings where trenchless methods needed to be employed. And to install the large casings deep underground, auger boring has been selected as the method of choice. 

Dialing Up a Trusted Partner

When specialty trenchless work needs to be done Horizontal Boring & Tunneling Co. of Exeter, Nebraska, is a trusted partner that many general construction companies call in. Since 1983, Horizontal Boring & Tunneling Owner Brent Moore and his team have been performing underground construction work throughout the country. Horizontal Boring & Tunneling crews perform everything from auger and guided boring to microtunneling and pipe jacking across Colorado, the Dakotas, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Horizontal Boring & Tunneling Project Manager, Kenton Moore, said their crews have been part of some huge projects. “We don’t shy away from big pipe. We do a lot of 60-, 72-, 84- and 96-inch diameter pipe installations,” Moore explained. “There are not a lot of companies as highly specialized as we are, which is why we are usually called on to handle large diameter bores.”

Doug Godown, Project Supervisor, and Roger Glenn, Crew Supervisor, of Horizontal Boring & Tunneling spend a lot of time in Kansas performing auger boring work. In fact, Glenn’s crew has spent most of the winter working in Garden City and the Kansas City area. “We usually work year-round, no matter what the weather is like,” he explained. “Over the years, we’ve gotten good at staying warm and ensuring our machinery is ready to go no matter what the temperature is.” 

Two-Month-Long Project

For the Garden City sewer expansion project, Glenn’s crew was pulled in to perform four 42-inch bores at depths of 12 to 13 feet in sandy soils. Bore distances were 75, 272, 280 and 383 feet long, and the bores exited into manholes at a 0.06 percent drop, so everything had to be on target. 

“Over the years, we’ve done around 10 bores in the Garden City area, so we knew what to expect on this one,” Glenn explained. “Soil conditions are sandy, which makes it a major challenge to stay on grade. Sandy soils can have air voids, water pockets and areas with sandstone. We also have to battle with the sand packing in around the casing because of the vibration in the hole.” 

The project was slated to take a total of 10 weeks, but thanks to a new tool in the Horizontal Boring & Tunneling fleet, the crew wrapped everything up two weeks early. 

New Way of Steering

On this project, the crew used the McLaughlin ON-TARGET auger boring steering system to keep the casings on grade with minimal side deviation. The 42-inch ON-TARGET steering head is welded onto the front of the first casing being installed. Crew members are then able to check and maintain the line throughout the bore with twin-line projection LED lights enclosed in the steering head and control the movement of the steering head – as well as hydraulic, water and electrical lines – from a self-contained control station. 

Horizontal Boring & Tunneling used the ON-TARGET system with its existing auger boring machine. “We’re familiar with McLaughlin auger boring equipment, but that’s not what we had on this job – we were using another manufacturer’s machine,” explained Glenn. “What’s nice about this system is that it will work with any auger boring machine – it doesn’t matter who made it, which makes it a pretty darn cost-effective option to add to a job.” 

The ON-TARGET steering system is an upgrade to how the crew would typically handle these bores. Glenn said they would have normally used a conventional head with left and right pads and would have pulled the auger out every 40 feet to measure where they were. Then, they would make adjustments to direction as needed, reset the auger and do another 40 to 60 feet. At 100 feet, they would also shoot the line grade. “The conventional way is a much more time-consuming process,” he added. “The ON-TARGET system saves a ton of time – on this job, a full two weeks.” 

Attention to the Details

The crew of six, along with a pair of John Deere excavators, prepared for the bores by digging entrance pits. They set 32-foot trench boxes with a 15-foot spread at a depth of 12 to 13 feet for the 75- and 272-foot bores. They dug a 64-foot long pit between the 280- and 383-foot bores since those backed up to each other. Compacted rock was used for a base in all of the entrance pits. 

The shorter bores were under a road that leads to the dairy plant and the driveway of a trucking company that hauls milk out of the facility. The 280-foot bore was under a state highway, and the longest shot was under a road to a sandpit. 

“Interrupting everyday operations at the plant or the trucking company was not an option, which is why they called us in,” said Glenn. “While I’m sure people knew there was an underground crew working in the area, no one had to change their normal routines to accommodate us.” 

After preparing each entrance pit, the auger boring machine was lowered into the ground where the first piece of casing with the ON-TARGET steering head was added. The crews worked the shorter bores in 20-foot increments. On the longer bores, they would install 40-foot joints, which certainly sped up production rates. “By the time we got to the longer bores, we had complete confidence in the ON-TARGET steering system,” said Glenn. “So, we welded up two casings at a time. On the first day of the last bore, we did 100 feet, 120 feet on the second day and 160 feet on the third day. The bore went quickly.” 

Hitting the Mark

More important than production rates, the team hit their exit mark on all four bores perfectly. “This was our first time using the McLaughlin ON-TARGET steering system, so I was a bit nervous on the first bore,” Glenn said. “McLaughlin sent out an expert to help us get started. By the end of his visit, we were confident that we knew what we were doing. We hit all of our marks right on target.” 

This material appeared in the June 2020 issues of the ACP Magazines:

California Builder & Engineer, Construction, Construction Digest, Construction News, Constructioneer, Dixie Contractor, Michigan Contractor & Builder, Midwest Contractor, New England Construction, Pacific Builder & Engineer, Rocky Mountain Construction, Texas Contractor, Western Builder

Are You Making These Mud Mistakes?

By Jeri Lamerton, Principal and Consultant, Lamerton Strategic Communications

In the 1970’s, horizontal directional drilling (HDD) was a lot of trial and error. It was new territory, successful only because of the grit and determination of a few early pioneers. Today, the industry has had more than 40 years to perfect the process. Technological innovations have improved performance while decades of experience has led to best practices universally accepted by underground professionals. Why then, is drilling fluid still getting short-changed?

“I’m surprised at the number of operators who take chances with their jobs by ignoring best practices when it comes to mud,” says Joseph “Jody” Parrish, HDD Division Manager for ARB Underground in Lake Forest, California. “They’re taking big risks with their equipment and jobs.”

Parrish has 37 years of industry experience to back up his statement. He’s worked internationally, through some of the toughest conditions imaginable including an earthquake and the Artic in the winter. In 2009, he even headed up the longest underground bore project in Ecuador at the time.

ARB Underground in the Port of Los Angeles, California

“We don’t cut corners when it comes to drilling fluid,” he says. “It’s an easy way to manage risk.”

Like other HDD professionals, Parrish points out that drilling fluids help stabilize the borehole, suspend cuttings and carry them out of the hole much better than water alone. Without it, equipment can be damaged, boring efficiency is compromised, and the risk of frac-outs and other damage to the site is greatly increased. Unfortunately, the expense and perceived hassle of “doing it right” keeps some from following best practices. They routinely break four drilling fluid rules, perhaps not realizing the risks they are taking.

Designate a Mud Man

One common mistake HDD operators can make is not having a trained crewmember in charge of drilling fluid. It seems harmless to send a laborer to “top it off” when mud is running low, but this can actually sabotage your drilling progress.

In a typical bore, fluid returns are about 20 percent solids at any given point. Incorrectly mixed mud – that “topped off” by someone who doesn’t know what they are doing – runs a high risk of actually putting solids back into the hole, undoing any progress you’ve made. These additional solids can clog the annulus, wear out pump parts, cause a loss of torque, and causes an increase in torque and pullback pressures. This results in drill pipe getting stuck down hole and even lead to inadvertent returns. 

Have a Mud Engineer on Site

A mud engineer works hand-in-hand with a trained mud man. Often hired from a drilling fluid manufacturer, the mud engineer checks the fluid every hour or so, making sure the recycler is working correctly and the mud mix is still maximized for current conditions.

“A mud engineer knows the fluid,” says Wyo-Ben’s Tyson Smith, who has worked as a mud engineer on many of Parrish’s jobs. “We monitor the mud’s efficiency and make adjustments on-site so you can get the most performance out of your drill. For example, if an operator is experiencing a high amount of fluid loss, a mud engineer will know the correct polymer to add to the mix to solve the problem and keep the job running smoothly.”

Don’t Skimp on Your Mix

Some operators will “save money” by not using the proper fluid mix. For example, they skip adding soda ash to their make-up water. Soda ash lowers water’s hardness and increases its pH value to the levels needed for effective drilling fluid performance. Unfortunately, not adding soda ash to your water means you might need to use up to 50 percent more bentonite in your mix. With the cost of soda ash versus bentonite, this “money-saving” move actually costs more.

Costs can really add up when you “save money” by skipping other additives as well. Geotechnical conditions, not budgetary concerns, should always mandate what mix of drilling fluid to use. Without the proper mix, your equipment is working harder than it has to. This not only slows drilling, it increases the wear and tear on your tools and equipment, decreasing service life and causing breakdowns. 

“The maintenance costs, replacement costs, and job shut-down costs should be enough to get people to use the proper mix,” Parrish says. “You pay to add something like Uni-Drill to your mud, but you always get your money’s worth when you consider the costs of not using it.”

Parrish’s example – Uni-Drill – is a Wyo-Ben product that conditions drilling fluids to control fluid loss, prevent formation clays from swelling, and keep tools clean by preventing bit balling. The additive helps build viscosity and reduces drag and torque, helping your down-hole tools do their job more efficiently and effectively. 

Another ARB Underground project in Hermosa Beach, California

“Think of it as insurance,” Smith says, who cautions against using bentonite without the proper additives. “There are many great additives on the market for every condition you will encounter. Using the right product will increase the effectiveness of your fluid and save you money and heartache down the line.”

Don’t Overuse Your Mud

Some operators use mud far beyond its effectiveness. Reasons include the cost of disposal, the cost and hassle of mixing new mud and – to be honest – laziness. The problem is that when mud gets too heavy, it loses flow properties. This means you’re not getting cuttings back out of the hole like you should, which can lead to a variety of problems and delays including inadvertent returns. 

According to Parrish, 10 pounds is the rule at ARB Underground. Once the mud reaches this weight, they dispose of the mud and the on-site mud engineer determines the proper mix for a new batch. 

In the end, cutting corners simply doesn’t pay. With all that can go wrong on a jobsite, from equipment failure to hole collapses and more, “saving” on your mud can end up costing you instead. 

“I’ve heard that doing mud right is just too messy and expensive,” says Parrish. “But what’s really messy and expensive is having to tell the DOT you’ve buckled their highway because you didn’t have the right mix of drilling fluid. Think about it.”