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Directional boring also known as Horizontal Directional Drilling
Directional boring, commonly called horizontal directional drilling or HDD, is a steerable trenchless method of installing underground pipes, conduits and cables in a shallow arc along a prescribed bore path by using a surface-launched drilling rig, with minimal impact on the surrounding area. Directional boring is used when trenching or excavating is not practical. It is suitable for a variety of soil conditions and jobs including road, landscape and river crossings. Installation lengths up to 2000 m have been completed, and diameters up to 1200 mm have been installed in shorter runs. Pipes can be made of materials such as PVC, polyethylene, polypropylene, Ductile iron, and steel if the pipes can be pulled through the drilled hole. Directional boring is not practical if there are voids in the rock or incomplete layers of rock. The best material is solid rock or sedimentary material. Soils with cobble stone are not recommended. There are different types of heads used in the pilot-hole process, and they depend on the geological material.
The equipment used in a horizontal directional drilling depends on the outer diameter of the pipe, length of the run, ground conditions and the surroundings above ground. For the large bores, directional drills equipped with as much as 600 tonnes 1 320 000 lb (or more) of thrust/pullback (Vermeer D1320x900)is used in conjunction with a mud reclaimer, excavator, and multiple pumps and hoses to supply the drilling fluid to the drillstem. Directional drilling stem is made from heat-treated high-carbon steel for strength and ships in diameters of 8 - 15 cm. Drill stem sections are manufactured in 3.0 or 4.6 and also 9.1 meter lengths and have male threading on one end, and female on the other. It is common for a directional drill to carry as much as 305 m of rod on board. Drilling heads come in multiple designs and depends on the rock or soil being penetrated. The drilling head has multiple water ports to allow removal of material. A talon bit involves the carbide-tipped cutters. These allow for steering and cutting the material. Another head is a mud-motor that is used in rocky landscapes.
Furthermore, supporting equipment is needed to assist directional-drilling or HDD to work smoothly, such as drilling mud recycling system, shale shaker, mud cleaner, centrifugal pump, mud tanks, etc.
Directional boring is used for installing infrastructure such as telecommunications and power cable conduits, water lines, sewer lines, gas lines, oil lines, product pipelines, and environmental remediation casings. It is used for crossing waterways, roadways, shore approaches, congested areas, environmentally sensitive areas, and areas where other methods are costlier or not possible. It is used instead of other techniques to provide less traffic disruption, lower cost, deeper and/or longer installation, no access pit, shorter completion times, directional capabilities, and environmental safety.
The technique has extensive use in urban areas for developing subsurface utilities as it helps in avoiding extensive open cut trenches. The use requires that the operator have complete information about existing utilities so that he can plan the alignment to avoid damaging those utilities. Since uncontrolled drilling can lead to damage, different agencies/government authorities owning the urban right-of-way or the utilities have rules for safe work execution. For standardization of the techniques, different trenchless technology promoting organizations have developed guidelines for this technique.
Starting pit with pilot hole and some drilling fluid in the pit
The process starts with receiving hole and entrance pits. These pits will allow the drilling fluid to be collected and reclaimed to reduce costs and prevent waste. The first stage drills a pilot hole on the designed path, and the second stage (reaming) enlarges the hole by passing a larger cutting tool known as the back reamer. The reamer's diameter depends on the size of the pipe to be pulled back through the bore hole. The driller increases the diameter according to the outer diameter or the conduit and to achieve optimal production. The third stage places the product or casing pipe in the enlarged hole by way of the drill stem; it is pulled behind the reamer to allow centering of the pipe in the newly reamed path.
Horizontal directional drilling is done with the help of a viscous fluid known as drilling fluid. It is a mixture of water and, usually, bentonite or polymer continuously pumped to the cutting head or drill bit to facilitate the removal of cuttings, stabilize the bore hole, cool the cutting head, and lubricate the passage of the product pipe. The drilling fluid is sent into a machine called a reclaimer which removes the drill cuttings and maintains the proper viscosity of the fluid. Drilling fluids hold the cuttings in suspension to prevent them from clogging the bore. A clogged bore creates back pressure on the cutting head, slowing production.
Locating and guidance
Empty conduits laid by directional boring
Location and guidance of the drilling is an important part of the drilling operation, as the drilling head is under the ground while drilling and, in most cases, not visible from the ground surface. Uncontrolled or unguided drilling can lead to substantial destruction, which can be eliminated by properly locating and guiding the drill head.
There are three types of locating equipment for locating the bore head: the walk-over locating system, the wire-line locating system and the gyro guided drilling, where a full inertial navigation system is located close to the drill head.