Unexpected Challenges: Sand, Soil, Clay And Rock On 4600-Foot Bore

June 2011 Vol. 66 No. 6

When Gary Davidson, president and co-owner of DrillTech Inc., based in Clarksville, TX, reviewed the results of soil samples provided him by project owner, Regency Energy Partners, he felt confident the mainline natural gas pipeline project his company was hired to complete in Louisiana would be a fairly routine horizontal directional drill installation. At first glance, the only thing that Davidson felt may be somewhat of a challenge was the length.

Davidson, who has been involved with drilling and pipeline installations since 1991, founded DrillTech with friend and partner Lance Downs in October 2007. The company has enjoyed steady growth ever since, and currently employs more than 20 people. The installation contractor specializes in trenchless pipeline installations with the assistance of what Davidson credits as the staple of his fleet: a Vermeer D500x500 Navigator drill.

Based in Dallas, project owner Regency Energy Partners owns more than 5,200 miles of gathering lines, including an ownership interest in the Regency Intrastate Gas System, a 450-mile intrastate pipeline located in North Louisiana. Regency's assets are located in some of the most prolific gas producing regions of the United States, including the Haynesville, Eagle Ford, Barnett, Fayetteville and Marcellus shales.

Regency operates significant gathering and processing assets in four geographic regions of the United States and contracts with producers to gather raw natural gas from individual wells or central delivery points that likely have multiple wells behind them. The wells are connected via gathering lines through which the raw natural gas flows to a processing plant, treating facility or directly to interstate or intrastate gas transportation pipelines.

The project Regency Energy awarded to DrillTech was located near Logansport, LA, in extreme western Louisiana, just a stone’s throw from the Texas/Arkansas border and was an extension of an existing 24-inch diameter mainline fed by the output of raw material from several wells.

The drill plan specified the pipeline be installed in two separate bores; the first, a relatively standard shot of 1,938 feet and the second spanning some 4,628 feet. It was the second shot that would present challenges for the DrillTech crew.

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