Drillers who operate in sub-zero conditions face even more challenges than the standard HDD job. Frozen ground, frigid drilling fluid and the stress of cold weather on moving parts can cause production to slow to a crawl. Select the right HDD tools and equipment and be smart about how you use them so you can get the most out of your operation, no matter what hurdles Mother Nature throws in your way.
Check your drill string
Your drill string is one of the first pieces of equipment to feel the severe impact of winter drilling. As the rods are made up and broken apart, the threads and shoulder of the pipe are put under major stress. Because they penetrate frozen ground on every shot, this can lead to poor make up and binding issues. Prevent this deterioration by changing the lead rod on your drill string before you begin work in winter conditions. Move your first piece of drill steam to the back of the basket now–or try to tackle repairs in bone-chilling conditions.
Select the best HDD tools for frozen ground
Frigid air and icy ground make drilling the pilot bore more challenging than usual. During winter conditions, drillers often pilot out with dirt bits or paddles (blades) that are packed with carbide blocks on the points and sides of the blades and lots of chunky hard-facing to easily chew through frozen solid winter ground. Melfred Borzall’s Steep Taper blade is one great example of this. Another useful tool for harsh winter ground is Eagle Claw which features aggressive carbide cutters and carbide pins that can be quickly removed, allowing drillers to quickly change out cutters while in the field. Remember that these tools are put under massive amounts of stress during winter drilling so speak with your HDD manufacturer about the strongest blade that can be rebuilt at an economical cost when wear and tear finally catch up with it.
Ensure adequate lubrication
Sufficient lubrication is crucial during any job, but especially in cold-weather drilling when temperatures can cause metal parts to seize and disrupt your production. Winter HDD jobs not only require sufficient drill fluid, water, and anti-freeze, but your HDD manufacturer strongly recommends using the appropriate amount of thread lube. Artic-grade thread lube protects threads on connections and makes it easier to swap out parts.
Be fast and efficient
When your crew is working hard in freezing temperatures, standing idle not only wastes time and money—it can be downright dangerous. Make sure you have all your HDD tools on site before you begin a job (including replacements for vulnerable parts) and create a game plan for all stages of drilling before you begin the project. Melfred Borzall’s FastBack drilling system enables your crew to work as fast as possible, by allowing your driller to pilot out with one bit and then quickly and easily attach a swivel to pullback product pipe with the same device. Swapping these tools so quickly keeps your equipment underground longer so you get the job done faster.
Nobody said drilling was easy. And HDD jobs in winter present a whole slew of additional challenges. But when you have the right tools and a solid game plan, you’re best prepared to do your best work. Stay safe and warm out there.
Ed. Note: Michael Criss, Melfred Borzall distributor with Tecvalco Ltd., has also contributed thoughts on the challenges of winter drilling to Trenchless Technology Canada.