A Focus on Horizontal Directional Drilling Methods in the Utility Industry

    Horizontal directional drilling or horizontal boring is a technique commonly used by the utility industry to install pipes and conduits. The process begins when a directional drilling rig creates a borehole and an installation path from the ground surface. This technique comes in quite handy when installation happens to have immovable obstructions along the way. After completing the installation, the pipes will be used to deliver certain utilities like water, gas, and electricity.

    One of the main challenges of installing pipes is the presence of many obstacles in populated areas. Traditional open pit methods mean you need to create much disturbance on the ground before you can successfully install pipes. This is especially problematic in areas where there are rivers, bridges, railroads, and public highways.

    Comparing directional boring and traditional methods

    In most installations, trenching or the open cut method is the conventional method employed. However, it is not without its limitations. This process is only optimal when the ground does not have any obstructions such as buildings. In similar situations when there is a need to install pipelines, but the ground surface has obstacles, directional drilling is the best solution.

    The cost of trenching is usually less than that of directional drilling. But these two methods are often used together in large projects. In some situations, it is possible to use trenching and resort only to directional boring as the alternative to creating a disturbance on the ground. Since the development of this technology, many jobs involved in the utility industry have become easier.

    Environmental impact of directional drilling

    It follows that when you employ directional drilling, you create little disturbance on the ground. Although large equipment and the work itself will still result in damage, contractors can mitigate this through care and proper planning. Directional drilling rigs can be quite heavy and may leave tracks on the general work area.

    In some projects, the water or fluid used in drilling may also cause some disturbance. This is the case when the work area has grass or sod that would need replacement afterwards. Nevertheless, the damage is minimal, and any disruption is created mostly by the drilling machine.

    What are the benefits of directional drilling?

    Directional drilling has many benefits. This is why contractors use directional drilling in challenging installations.

    • You can use one area to install multiple pipelines.
    • Minimise damage to vital rock formations.
    • Minimise possible groundwater contamination.
    • Does not result in damage to the ecosystem and the soil.
    • The process is safer and more efficient than trenching.
    • When there is a weather disturbance, it will not disrupt the installation process.

    These benefits do justify the cost of hiring a directional drilling contractor to get the job done. Preserving the surface, especially when working in populated areas is a primary consideration for utility companies. Thanks to directional drilling, the challenges posed by natural surface obstructions like land formations, rivers, and streams, no longer limit the possibility of bringing utility services to even the most remote and secluded areas of the country.


    • Tom La Vecchia

      Founder of New Theory & X Factor Media

      Founder and Publisher of New Theory Magazine and Podcast. Serial Entrepreneur who loves wine, cigars and anything that allows to people to connect and share experiences.

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