October 2017 Vol. 72 No. 10


IR Risk – A Holistic Approach

The Capabilities Guide is a special advertising section in Underground Construction highlighting advertiser’s products and services.

For better or worse, HDD drilling is front page news. This increased publicity is also intersecting with increasing environmental scrutiny of infrastructure projects, particularly those relating to oil & gas. Doing all we can as an industry to mitigate environmental issues is critical, particularly high profile issues such as inadvertent returns (“IR”).  Furthermore, if these risks cannot be better managed, the future of the HDD industry may be at risk.  It is not possible to completely eliminate the risk of IR events, but technology and best practices exist to significantly mitigate this risk.

What tools are available?

Reliable and proven tools exist that are able to monitor annular pressure in real time. Pressure tools are typically deployed as an addition to the wireline steering system for use when drilling the pilot hole but can be used as a standalone tool for reaming applications. The data from the pressure tool can then be fed to an EDR (electronic data recorder) system to record and share pressure data and other drilling parameters with project stakeholders in real time.  INROCK’s CrossViewTM EDR combined with ParatrakTM Pressure tooling perform these functions and are available to deploy today.

Tooling only part of the equation

However, utilizing pressure tools and EDRs to monitor pressure levels is only part of the solution. Proper risk mitigation begins well before contractors mobilize onsite.  HDD engineers and project owners need to perform a geotechnical analysis that collects samples at the proposed bore depth.  These results are then utilized to create a hydrofracture analysis (pressure curve) to properly frame the IR risk. This analysis then needs to be incorporated into bore design and project/contractor drilling requirements.

Once the risk is characterized, owners, engineers and contractors need to agree in advance what remedial actions will be taken if pressures approach concerning levels or if the project begins losing returns.  Finally, project agreements need to create allowances for the various project participants to take appropriate action if IR risk becomes elevated.

So why run pressure and EDRs?

Monitoring annular pressure allows drillers, engineering firms and inspectors to recognize potentially dangerous trends and take precautionary actions such as cleaning the hole or adjusting the fluid program before an undesirable event occurs. It provides a record of pressure levels and other drilling parameters which can be used to demonstrate compliance with project specifications and better understand drilling operations. In addition, the cost of delivering this solution is low in absolute terms and practically irrelevant in the context of an IR.

The evolution has begun

This comprehensive approach has been successfully used in select regions of the world to dramatically decrease IR events.  However, in order to preserve the growth in the HDD market, these practices will need to become commonplace.  INROCK stands ready to support our customers in this evolution.

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