What is Horizontal Directional Drilling and Why Has it Become the Industry Standard?

For many projects which require installing gas, water, or oil pipelines or telecommunications cables, it is no longer necessary to dig trenches. Directional boring can be used instead to install underground pipelines and cables, reducing the amount of disturbance above ground. This technique has been around for a number of years, and is now being used for underground utilities that can’t be just trenched in the conventional way. Instead of digging trenches, a surface-launched drilling rig is used to make a directional underground boring that will hold the pipeline or cable.

What is horizontal directional drilling?
Horizontal directional drilling is an underground boring technique that eliminates the need for digging trenches. This is good news for contractors who install utilities such as electrical and plumbing, or whose work on highway construction requires road boring. It helps project managers and contractors to handle underground pipe placement tasks without traditional open trench excavation. It has applications for both residential and commercial projects, when contractors encounter a situation where digging a trench is too disruptive or expensive.
With its many advantages over the traditional method, directional boring is now the industry standard. It can be used for bores with a width between two inches and four feet, for lengths from 600 to 1800 feet.

How it works
Directional drilling uses a surface-launched drilling rig to bore underground. The first step is to drill a pilot hole, following an underground path between two marked surface points. The diameter of the bore is then enlarged to fit the pipeline that will be installed. The third and final step is the installation of the pipeline. It is pulled into the hole and creates a continuous underground section of piping. This technique can be used for a number of projects, including the following:

  • Electrical pipes
  • Telephone and communications cables
  • Sewers and drains
  • Water pipes
  • Oil and gas pipeline installation

Advantages of directional trenchless drilling
Trenchless technology has many advantages over more traditional methods of installing cables and pipelines, for both residential and commercial projects. It is less disruptive, quicker and more durable. It eliminates the need to dig up roads and asphalt, reducing or ending interruptions to traffic. It’s also more energy efficient, requiring less fuel usage to place pipelines and cables. This also reduces the carbon footprint of the project, as well as the emission of greenhouse gases like CO2.
Because of these advantages, trenchless technology is being used for new projects like telecommunications installations. This industry is undergoing a wave of expansion powered by fiber-to-the-premises services. This has led to a 24.4% expansion of the trenchless market in the telecommunications industry in 2017, according to the Horizontal Directional Drilling Survey for that year. Globally, the trenchless horizontal directional drilling market is projected to grow to $14.95 billion by 2022.

Trenchless technology is now the industry standard for installing cables and pipelines underground. Utility projects involving electrical and plumbing installations, telecommunications, and oil and gas pipelines all use underground boring. This is quicker and less disruptive because it doesn’t require digging trenches: instead, a surface-launched drilling rig makes an underground boring to carry the pipeline or cable.

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