Crews for Michels Directional Crossing, a division of Michels Corporation, recently completed a successful, record-breaking installation of a 42-inch intra state crossing from Texas to Louisiana in excess of 6,000 feet near Orange, TX. The unique nature of this crossing made it a first of its kind for the horizontal directional drilling (HDD) industry.
Michels Directional Crossing was hired as a subcontractor by Sheehan Pipe Line to perform at least 15, 42-inch crossings for ExxonMobile’s Golden Pass Pipeline Project. The Old River crossing, located near Orange, took place from Sabine Island across the river on the Texas-Louisiana border.
Michels Assistant Operations Manager Tom Breunig explained that “Michels has performed several long distance large diameter crossings previously, but none the magnitude of this crossing. This size diameter alone is impressive due to the massive equipment and support required to install it, but mix that in with the length crossed and you have a truly remarkable achievement.”
Originally slated to being work in February, heavy floods and storms battered many areas in southeast Texas and kept crews from their original start date. Work on the pipeline had to be postponed until ground conditions improved. Finally, the green light was given in late May and Michels’ crews began work.
In addition to the harsh weather, one of the many challenges was getting the heavy equipment across the Old River and onto the island where the pullback was to originate. Sheehan crews loaded equipment from the mainland onto a barge where it was then taken down the river and unloaded onto the island. The fluctuating levels of the river experienced during this process further complicated the mammoth effort undertaken by Sheehan to support Michels’ drilling operations.
Project Manager Louis Barber pointed out that “This crossing went quite smoothly, especially for how complex it was. Several of Michels veteran personnel brain stormed, designed and fabricated a deadman system to handle the anticipated loads expected during pullback. The hole intersect went off without a hitch and reaming operations progressed ahead of schedule.”
One month later, the record breaking pullback was complete.
Pullback loads were within the anticipated range and were maintained by the crews using a specialized combination of proven HDD techniques developed from past experience along with several innovations implemented to address the unique concerns of the crossing. The weight of the pipe alone was almost 2.5 million pounds. Given this weight, simply getting the ominous looking single string of pipe started into the ground at the HDD exit point was a herculean task, let alone pulling it all of the way across to the entry point safely and without incident.
Michels Drill Superintendent Jack Edmunds said, “During pullback, the idea was to maintain a consistent pace so that ballasting, drill fluid removal operations and pullback remained synchronized so as to not delay any part of the operation.” Pullback was a remarkably short 23-hours.”
“The drill superintendents on the job related that this was one of the smoothest pullbacks, from start to finish, for this diameter of pipe that they could remember,” Breunig added.