HDD Horizontal Drilling Process

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HDD Horizontal Drilling Process

The Horizontal Directional Drilling Process

The tools and techniques used in the horizontal directional drilling (HDD) process are an outgrowth of the oil well drilling industry. The components of a horizontal drilling rig used for pipeline construction are similar to those of an oil well drilling rig with the major exception being that a horizontal drilling rig is equipped with an inclined ramp as opposed to a vertical mast. HDD pilot hole operations are not unlike those involved in drilling a directional oil well. Drill pipe and downhole tools are generally interchangeable and drilling fluid is used throughout the operation to transport drilled spoil, reduce friction, stabilize the hole, etc. Because of these similarities, the process is generally referred to as drilling as opposed to boring.

Installation of a pipeline by HDD is generally accomplished in two stages as illustrated in Figure 1. The first stage consists of directionally drilling a small diameter pilot hole along a designed directional path. The second stage involves enlarging this pilot hole to a diameter which will accommodate the pipeline and pulling the pipeline back into the enlarged hole.

Pilot Hole Directional Drilling

Pilot hole directional control is achieved by using a non-rotating drill string with an asymmetrical leading edge. The asymmetry of the leading edge creates a steering bias while the non-rotating
aspect of the drill string allows the steering bias to be held in a specific position while drilling. If a change in direction is required, the drill string is rolled so that the direction of bias is the same as the desired change in direction. The direction of bias is referred to as the tool face. Straight progress may be achieved by drilling with a series of offsetting tool face positions. The drill string may also be continually rotated where directional control is not required. Leading edge asymmetry can be accomplished by several methods. Typically, the leading edge will have an angular offset created by a bent sub or bent motor housing. This is illustrated schematically in Figure 2.

It is common in soft soils to achieve drilling progress by hydraulic cutting with a jet nozzle. In this
case, the direction of flow from the nozzle can be offset from the central axis of the drill string thereby creating a steering bias. This may be accomplished by blocking selected nozzles on a standard roller cone bit or by custom fabricating a jet deflection bit. If hard spots are encountered, the drill string may be rotated to drill without directional control until the hard spot has been penetrated.

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