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Michels Sets North American HDD Record on Northern Courier Pipeline

On November 21, 2015, Michels utilized horizontal directional drilling (HDD) to drill beneath the Athabasca River and completed an HDD milestone. An installation of a 42-inch 7,200-foot (2,195 meters) crossing near Fort MacKay which is about one hour north of Fort McMurray, Alberta. The 1.36 miles (2,195 m) of 42-inch pipe is a new record for Michels and the longest in North America.

Working 24hrs per day with two crews of 16 people per shift, the final pipe pull took 36 hours to complete. Additional to the HDD crew, Michels provided pipe support using 10 cranes, 5 side booms and 3 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 over 230-feet (70m).  Michels 750-ton Herrenknecht Pipe Thruster was also used to assist during the installation.  

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. Teams from Michels Canada and Michels Directional Crossings have been working 24hrs per day, 6 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 6 HDD’s and 1 Direct Pipe™.

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