HDD Solves Crude Line Replacement Across St. Clair River

By Bob Wothe, Michels Corporation | November 2011, Vol. 66 No. 11

Enbridge recently sprang into action after confirming a minor anomaly on its 30-inch Line 6B crude oil pipeline where it crosses under the St. Clair River spanning from Marysville, MI, to St. Clair Township, Ontario.

After lowering the operating pressure and completing a comprehensive engineering evaluation, Enbridge submitted a written technical and engineering assessment report to United States pipeline safety regulators in September 2010. In a Corrective Action Order issued by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) on Sept. 17, 2010, Enbridge was to “…include project plans and a schedule for total replacement of the pipe in the entire St. Clair River crossing within one year.”


Enbridge needed a contractor that could move quickly and aggressively to overcome the hurdles on this project. In order to complete the 3,454-foot bore and pullback, the contractor would need to be well-versed in technically challenging horizontal directional drills (HDD) using intersect technology. Equally as important, the contractor needed to be comfortable and experienced with working under the scrutiny of myriad permitting agencies from two separate countries that were involved in the initial construction approval phase. Additionally, Enbridge wanted to engage a contractor with demonstrated experience in mitigating risk associated with drilling in close proximity to pre-existing product lines.

Enbridge found that contractor in Michels Corporation. A team from Michels consisting of Michels Directional Crossings, Michels Pipeline Construction and Michels Canada worked together to bid the project and met Enbridge’s needs. This cohesive unit won the job in December and quickly started planning for the work.

The replacement of Line 6B was particularly difficult due to the limited right-of-way options at the site, existing utilities, and Enbridge’s desire to stay above the bedrock. These challenges required careful planning and precision controlled drilling operations to avoid unacceptable utility encounters and potential environmental impacts. Michels provided technical input and supporting data to assist Enbridge in convincing internal review boards and external regulators that this challenging crossing was possible and relatively free of risk if planned and executed properly.


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