Michels utilized horizontal directional drilling (HDD) to drill beneath the Athabasca River and completed an HDD milestone on November 21. The 42-inch, 7,200-foot (2,195 meters) crossing was near Fort MacKay, about one hour north of Fort McMurray, Alberta. The 1.36-mile installation is a new record for Michels and the longest in North America for a pipe with a 42-inch diameter.
Working 24 hours per 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 that was a complex horizontal curve. The section reached 47 feet (14.3m) high before being pulled under the river at a designed depth of more than 230 feet (70m).
The complexity and sheer size of the project was completed using two 1.2 million lbs. 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 24 hour per day six days per week since mid-August. Subsurface conditions were challenging as crews encountered geology from limestone rock to silts and sands.
Crews stayed in work camps and encountered typical Northern Alberta weather with ranges from 86 F (30 degrees C) to -4 F(-20 degrees C). This crossing is part of the TCPL Northern Courier Pipeline Project installing 42-inch casing pipe with six HDDs and one Direct Pipe™.