HDD: An Environmental Home Run

The Last Word
By John English | December 2010 Vol. 65 No. 12
John English

If the process was called Engineered Environmental Installation (EEI) instead of Horizontal Directional Drilling, the work might be less of a target. In fact, poor engineering is one of the HDD contractor’s biggest problems. Projects are routinely designed at minimal distance and at minimal radius. Why would anyone who claims to be able to design and manage an HDD project create a plan that cannot be drilled? There are only two answers, the person in charge didn't know what he was doing or it was a premeditated attempt to cheat the contractor. Not only is it a waste of time and money but these issues greatly increase the chances of incidents. The end result is generally two or three wasted days at the contractor’s expense, followed by an approved increase in the drills footage, at no extra pay for the HDD contractor. Because they are involved in the pre-drill planning, environmentalists should have enough knowledge to mandate the design firm create a drill plan that increases chances for success. Once the project has gone out for bid, this window is closed.

Next to poor designs, the most misunderstood issue is the fluid used to remove formation from the hole. Again, the term drilling mud creates tension and needless worry, conjuring up visions of sticky oil, ripe with hazardous chemicals contaminating rivers and local drinking water. Nothing could be further from the truth. Twenty years ago the Directional Crossing Contractors Association did a great job of establishing the facts and educating the public concerning the methods used by HDD contractors. Time has blurred the truth and the industry has expanded to such a position that misinformed environmentalists are blindly fighting against their own cause. The facts are simple: the fluid is necessary to complete the job but isn't an environmental hazard. Although not that tasty, the fluid can be safely consumed. People go to spas and pay big bucks to bathe in mud for health reasons. Why aren't the environmentalists concerned?