An Overview of Horizontal Directional Drilling and the Direct Pipe Method



People familiar with traditional aspects of the oil and gas industry and laypeople who know nothing about how oil, gas, power, telecommunications, water and other such materials are transported from one point to another often ask what Horizontal Directional Drilling and the Direct Pipe® method are all about.

The information included in this blog post will hopefully demystify these topics and provide those who are curious with a better understanding of Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD), the Direct Pipe method and the type of services Laney Directional Drilling provides.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides a good starting point for understanding HDD. Most of us — particularly Texas residents — are familiar with the concept of vertical oil wells sitting beneath tall, A-shaped oil derricks. Even people from different states or countries outside the U.S. have seen depictions of oil wells and derricks in films such as There Will be Blood.

HDD takes the vertical oil well and derrick concept and turns it on its side, featuring a horizontal drilling rig on an inclining or declining ramp which can dig or drill into the earth. As opposed to simply removing oil or gas, the goal of HDD is to install pipe, conduit or cables underground without having to dig a trench, lay the materials and then cover them with soil.

The HDD process can involve several steps, including the drilling of a pilot hole which has to be subsequently enlarged to accommodate the pullback of the carrier pipe into the enlarged hole. This is where the Direct Pipe method comes into play.

The Direct Pipe method integrates what would have previously been multiple processes into one step. Direct Pipe combines microtunneling — a digging process using remotely operated machinery to construct small tunnels — with HDD to create a single-pass process. This process both excavates the newly-created bore hole and installs pipe at the same time, greatly reducing the scheduling time needed for pipe installation projects. Stated another way, Direct Pipe technology tunnels through the earth and pushes pipe into place simultaneously, filling the void as it progresses.

The Direct Pipe method is ideal for pipe installation under lakes, rivers, highways or other environmentally sensitive areas where traditional trenching techniques are not practical. The benefits of the Direct Pipe method are discussed at greater length in a separate blog post.

The Laney name got its start in construction in 1947, and became Laney Directional Drilling in 1989 with the emergence of HDD technology. Today, Laney is North America’s premier independent trenchless construction and engineering firm with more than 30 years experience serving the oil, gas, power, telecommunications, water, wind, mining and other industries. The company is widely recognized as one of the most experienced and capable HDD providers for large diameter pipelines, as well as the leading Direct Pipe contractor in North America.