Directional drilling is not a new idea. This idea was conceived by an American engineer in the late 1960s. He introduced the first directional drilling machine, which was used for laying various utility services underground.
The basic concept was to cross roads and rivers without damaging them while laying pipelines, cables, and conduits for various utility services. The traditional way of laying pipelines and cables was to dig trenches and bury the pipeline in these trenches.
This method is more commonly known as the open-cut method. With this old technology, it was quite difficult to cross rivers, roads, and canals. The idea of underground laying of pipelines and cables using directional drilling technology has gained popularity.
Understanding Horizontal Directional Drilling
Horizontal directional drilling (HDD) is the technology where we can install pipelines without digging a trench. That’s why it is also referred to as trenchless boring. The entire pipeline or cable remains below the surface. We only need to dig two holes, one at the entry and the other at the exit point of that service line.
HDD is also known as directional boring. The process of HDD starts with digging an entrance pit and a pilot hole. The entrance pit is used to recollect the drilling fluid. First, we dig a pilot hole on a predetermined path.
The second step is to widen this pilot hole with a larger cutter, most commonly known as a back reamer. The size of this cutter is set to accommodate the pipe, conduit or cable to be passed through this hole. The third step is to pull back the pipe or conduit behind the reamer.
The horizontal directional drilling is carried out with a fluid, a mixture of water and a viscous material such as bentonite. This drilling fluid is pumped up to the drilling head. It helps to cool down the drilling head and lubricate the path.
This technology is used today for laying water and gas pipelines, electricity, and telephone cables.
Benefits of Horizontal Directional Drilling
HDD technology is being widely used in the construction industry these days. It has many advantages and benefits over the traditional open-cut method. Let’s see how it is more beneficial for construction projects.
- Impact on Cost
The total cost of any construction project is perhaps the foremost consideration. Construction managers always strive to save costs wherever and whenever possible. With HDD technology, they can save money in many ways.
- Labor cost is reduced when we use HDD rigs. Lesser labor translates into lesser supervisory costs.
- The task can be accomplished in less time as compared to conventional techniques.
- Minimum earth needs to be excavated; the lesser cost involved in the land restoration.
- Lesser or even no need for heavy equipment.
- No need for storage houses to accommodate various equipment and materials.
- Enhanced Useful life
Pipes and cables used in HDD are relatively tougher and long-lasting. Secondly, they remain underground; hence they are safe from weather hazards. So, there is hardly any chance that they could be damaged.
In conventional methods, pipes and cables were laid alongside the bridges while crossing the waterways. These pipes and cables remain open to harsh weather conditions and are also exposed to the flowing water, which increases the possibility of them being damaged. By using HDD technology, the useful life of these pipes and cables is enhanced by more than 75%.
- HDD is Environment Friendly
Laying pipelines for various utility services may result in huge environmental issues while using old open-cut trench technology. A huge volume of land is disturbed. Machines used for excavation create noise. Flora and fauna are badly damaged.
All such things result in environmental disturbance. Using HDD technology may reduce or even eliminate all these disturbances.
First of all, HDD rigs create less noise as compared to conventional excavation machinery. Secondly, there is no land displacement. No damage to plants and vegetation. Life is undisturbed over the surface. So, HDD technology may safely be referred to as environment-friendly.
- HDD is Flexible
Laying of various service lines may face challenges on the way from start to end point. You may come across difficult terrains. There may be some roads or railway lines, waterways, and so many other hurdles. These obstructions were difficult to tackle with conventional methods. Even at some stage, work had to be abandoned.
With HDD technology, you need not worry about any such hazards. You can continue laying the utility service lines underground. Direction can be changed to avoid any such hazard at any point. You can manage the path with a directional drilling technique.
- Zero possibility of Soil Contamination
Soil pollution was a big issue in the conventional open-cut method of laying pipes and cables. Soil has to be excavated when a channel is dug. This disturbed soil is spread on both sides of the trench along the service line. Another big issue was that the disturbed soil might infiltrate the water supply line.
Since there is no displacement of soil when we use the horizontal directional drilling method, there’s no possibility of any soil contamination. Moreover, there is no chance of contaminated soil intruding into the water supply pipelines.
The laying of various utility service lines is the basic requirement of any urban area. These may include water supply lines, gas pipelines, electricity supply cables, telephone lines, fiber optical cables, etc.
Traditionally, trenches were dug to bury these pipelines, conduits, and cables. This old method was costly, time-consuming, and required huge land displacement. The HDD technology has changed the whole scenario.
Now you can lay all these service lines without the hassle of major land displacement and damage to existing structures. It also has no impact on the environment. Cost is reduced, work hours are reduced and above all, there are hardly any visible signs over the ground. Everything happening under the ground.
That’s the reason the HDD method of laying different service lines is widely in use these days and has practically eliminated the old trench-digging method.