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Hard rock directional drilling bores more: 8400 ft (2560.3 m) in solid rock

Published by , Digital Administrator
World Pipelines,

Everything is bigger in Texas, and the job Hard Rock Directional Drilling performed in Midland, Texas, proves it. Using two Vermeer® horizontal directional drills (HDDs) and a pair of Vermeer reclaimers, the San Antonio-based HDD specialists could do more than some other crews – installing 8414 ft (2564.6 m) of 30 in. (76.2 cm) diameter steel pipe in rock along a busy highway.

According to owner Robert Myers, planning was key to this job’s success. That, and the fact that he employs highly skilled and trained crew members and provides them with the resources they needed to get the job done. “We work in rock all the time, and we’ve done a lot of long drill shots and opened up some pretty wide holes. But this particular job is memorable because it combined all of the traits that make a job challenging. The Midland bore is a project that I’m sure no one at Hard Rock Directional Drilling will soon forget,” said Myers.

Project overview

The Midland bore was part of a 4.5 mile (7.2 km) long pipeline installed by Fasken Oil and Gas to carry oil, gas and water from wells to a Fasken facility. The Fasken Oil and Gas team and general contractor Kingsley Constructors, Inc. called in Hard Rock Directional Drilling because the pipeline would go through Midland and cross two highways, stretching over 8400 ft (2560.3 m).

The Hard Rock Directional Drilling crew wasn’t intimidated by the length. They had recently wrapped up a longer bore in Kemah, Texas — 11 600 ft (3535.7 m). It was the weight of the steel pipeline they worried about. “We knew we could go the distance, and we also knew we would have a good hole to work with since it was in solid rock, but we had to make sure we had a rig that could pull that weight all back,” said Hard Rock Directional Drilling General Manager Cory Baker. Luckily, their Vermeer D1000x900 HDD could do the job.

Two drills for an efficient bore

To perform the bore as efficiently as possible, the crew decided to use a drill on each side with a planned intersection near the middle of the bore. They set up the Vermeer D1000x900 on the Midland side of the bore path and used a Vermeer D500x500 on the exit side. They outfitted the drills with 8 in. (20.3 cm) mud motors and 12 3/4 in. (32.3 cm) bits to perform the pilot bore through sandstone and limestone, which took 12 days at an average depth of 60 ft (18.3 m).


The crew also used the drills to open the hole to 48 in. (121.9 cm) in diameter. “We made a total of three passes with hole openers,” said Baker. “We made a pass with 24, 36 and 48 in. (6-, 91.4 and 121.9 cm) hole openers while pumping around 1200 gallons (4542.5 L) of fluid per minute down the hole. The crews on both ends were pumping to make sure we got all of the cuttings out of the hole, and we had a Vermeer R9x12T reclaimer on both sides so that we could conserve water as much as possible.”

Hard Rock Directional Drilling used about 180 000 gallons (681 374.1 L) of water over the 84 day project, and a mix of bentonite and a larger molecular-weighted polymer additive to help flush the cuttings from the drill hole.

A successful job

After they made three passes with hole openers, the crew connected the 1.7 million lb (771 107 kg) pipe string to its Vermeer D1000x900 for pullback. It took them just 23 hours and a maximum pull force of just under 600 000 lb (272 155.4 kg) to pull the 30 in. (76.2 cm) pipe into place.

“Everything went fantastic,” Baker said. “I couldn’t be any prouder of our crew and the job they did. Also, Fasken Oil and Gas, along with Kingsley Constructors were excellent to work with. All three of our organisations worked together to make this job a success. It’s a tale we’ll all be sharing for many years to come.”

This article contains third-party observations, advice or experiences that do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Vermeer Corporation, its affiliates or its dealers. Testimonials and/or endorsements by contractors in specific circumstances may not be representative of normal circumstances experienced by all customers.

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Pipeline construction projects