A holistic approach to HDD project management

Jan 10, 2024

Maxibor Australia chief executive officer (CEO) Rodney O’Meley spoke to Trenchless Australasia on minimising risk and optimising outcomes for stakeholders in horizontal directional drilling (HDD) projects.

With over 40 years of experience under his belt, O’Meley combines his hands-on ownership with an experienced operational management team. The Maxibor operational management team also has a wealth of experience in the design and delivery of HDD projects spanning several decades.

HDD risks

The inherent risk of an HDD project is largely concentrated at the geotech, design and pipeline installation stages of the project. Inherent risk is the level of risk when no action has been taken to mitigate or reduce the risk. It is the risk before any treatments or controls are put in place to mitigate the risk. Residual risk is the level of risk that remains after controls have been put in place. Developing mitigation actions to respond to those activities with higher inherent risk will substantially benefit from the involvement of people with wide experience in solving a variety of HDD project challenges. Maxibor Australia’s perspective on the management of HDD risks involves multiple stages.

Ownership commitment – O’Meley’s direct involvement as both CEO and owner demonstrates a high level of commitment and passion for the HDD business. This personal and financial stake in the company drives a strong commitment to its growth and success, winning the confidence in all project stakeholders..

Risk mitigation – The inherent risk in HDD projects, especially during geotechnical investigation, pilot hole, and pipe pull stages, is well-recognised. O’Meley’s involvement in these critical phases allows for real-time assessment of risks and the implementation of mitigation measures.

Cost management – Recognising that pipeline installation accounts for a significant portion of HDD project costs (circa 65 per cent), O’Meley’s experience and decision-making can lead to more productive operations, reducing labour and equipment expenses.

Operational expertise – The operational management team complements O’Meley’s ownership. Their specialised expertise in areas such as design, estimating, project management, commercials and HSEQ ensures the day-to-day efficiency and safety of HDD projects.

Maxibor applies this approach to the extreme inherent risk areas of geotech investigation, installation – pilot hole, and installation – pipe pull.

Geotech Investigation

Geotechnical investigation is a critical phase in HDD projects, as it lays the foundation for informed decision-making and risk management. Here’s how Maxibor manages this phase effectively:

Identifying hazards – The geotechnical investigation is essential for identifying conceivable ground-related hazards. This involves assessing geological conditions, soil types, rock formations, caverns, and potential obstacles in the drilling path.

Risk assessment – Maxibor assesses these hazards as project risks, quantifying the level of risk associated with each identified hazard. This step helps prioritise risk mitigation efforts based on their potential impact on the project.

Risk mitigation planning – The company identifies required actions to manage ground risks effectively. This includes developing strategies to navigate challenging geological conditions, such as fractured rock drilling techniques or the use of specialised tooling.

Documentation and linkages – The geotechnical investigation informs the development of design and construction documentation. These documents include plans and procedures tailored to address specific ground conditions and associated risks. They are linked to the construction program to ensure seamless execution.

Installation – The pilot hole is a critical component of HDD projects, setting the stage for the subsequent drilling and pipe installation phases. Here’s how Maxibor manages the pilot hole process.

Precision – Maxibor emphasises precision and accuracy during the pilot hole process. This involves the use of advanced steering and guidance equipment to navigate through complex subsurface conditions, including rock formations, utilities, and environmental obstacles.

Environmental impact mitigation – Maxibor minimises the environmental impact by starting with a smaller-diameter borehole during the pilot hole phase. This reduces disruption to the surrounding area and lessens the likelihood and impact of environmental damage.

Subsurface assessment – The pilot hole serves as an essential tool for assessing subsurface conditions. It helps identify potential obstructions, assess ground conditions, and make necessary adjustments before proceeding to the reaming and pipe pull stages. This proactive approach reduces the risk of unexpected challenges during subsequent phases.

Efficiency and cost savings – A well-executed pilot hole not only ensures accuracy but also increases project efficiency. It reduces the time and effort required for reaming and pipe installation, ultimately leading to cost savings in terms of labour and equipment usage.

Installation – Pipe pull

The pipe pull phase is the culmination of the HDD project, where the pipeline is pulled through the drilled borehole. Maxibor pays particular attention to this phase for a successful project completion.

Alignment and precision – The alignment of the pipeline during the pull is crucial. Maxibor ensures that the pipeline aligns precisely with the intended path established by the pilot hole. This precision avoids issues such as misalignment, bends, or kinks that could affect the pipeline’s performance or durability.

Friction reduction – Reducing friction and resistance during the pipe pull is vital to prevent damage to the pipeline, drilling tooling, and the borehole itself. Maxibor uses proper lubrication techniques and closely monitors the pulling force to ensure a smooth and controlled pull.

Quality assurance – The pipe pull phase serves as a quality assurance checkpoint. It allows for a final inspection of the pipeline to identify any damage or defects that may have occurred during the installation process. Any issues are addressed before the project is considered complete.

Efficiency – Efficient pipe pulls help control project costs by reducing labour and equipment expenses. They also minimise potential delays associated with rework or corrections, contributing to overall project efficiency.

Maxibor’s approach to HDD projects emphasises the meticulous management of higher inherent risk areas such as geotechnical investigation, pilot hole drilling, and pipe pull installation.

By integrating ownership thinking, technical expertise, risk assessment, and mitigation strategies into these critical phases, Maxibor optimises project outcomes while ensuring precision, efficiency, and environmental responsibility.

This comprehensive approach demonstrates the company’s commitment to delivering successful HDD projects that meet the needs of all stakeholders.

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