Michels Sets North American HDD Record on Northern Courier Pipeline

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Michels used horizontal directional drilling (HDD) beneath the Athabasca River on Nov. 21 to complete a company record 1.36-mile installation – the longest in North America for a 42-inch pipe.

The 7,200-foot crossing is located near Fort MacKay, Alberta, about one hour north of Fort McMurray. The crossing, part of the TCPL Northern Courier Pipeline Project, involved installing a 42-inch casing pipe with six HDDs and one Direct Pipe™.

Working 24 hours a day with two crews of 16 people per shift, the final pipe pull took 36 hours to complete. In addition to the HDD crew, Michels provided pipe support using 10 cranes, five side booms and three excavators to manage the pipe section, which involved a complex horizontal curve. The section reached 47 feet high before being pulled under the river at a designed depth of more than 230 feet.

The complexity and sheer size of the project required the use of two 1.2 million-pound rigs on each side of the river for the pilot hole intersect and reaming operations. Michels’ 750-ton Herrenknecht Pipe Thruster was used to assist during the installation.

Teams from Michels Canada and Michels Directional Crossings have been working on the project since mid-August. Subsurface conditions were challenging as crews encountered geology from limestone rock to silts and sands, the company said. The crews stayed in work camps and encountered typical Northern Alberta weather with ranges from 86 F to minus 4 F.

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