As the last days of summer disappear into the distance, it is time to look forward to the winter and the busy Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) season that comes with it. As the ground starts to freeze up, more contracts from the summer can now be tackled.
However, winter drilling comes with its own set of challenges. There are a number of things to keep in mind when sending equipment and crews out into the frigid Canadian winter. Using the right equipment can ensure that a drilling operation is getting the most out of their people and machines.
The drill string can be the first piece of equipment impacted by the challenges of a winter drill. As rods are made up and broken apart, the threads and shoulder of the pipe can take a beating; going into the ground on every shot and resulting in poor make up and binding issues. This can be prevented, however. If you do not regularly change out the lead rod on your drill string, now is the time to shuffle that first piece of drill steam to the back of the basket.
All fluids are crucial when drilling in winter conditions, be it anti-freeze, drilling fluids, or even thread lube. Often overlooked, thread lube is a very important part of a sub-zero drilling operation. The challenging temperature can be offset by utilizing arctic-grade thread lube such as the Auntie C’s line, which will work with auto greasing mechanisms on the coldest of days. This product provides superior lubrication at low temperatures, and can be purchased economically in a variety of volumes.
Canada already has challenging conditions to drill through, but adding frigid air and frozen ground just increases the operational difficulty — especially when it comes to the pilot shot. Drillers often prefer to use dirt bits or paddles to pilot out, and there are a wide variety of designs available to suit virtually any ground type or drill.
The Steep Taper blade from Melfred Borzall excels in hard drilling conditions. With a very aggressive center carbide on the point, carbide blocks down the sides of the blade, and loads of chunky hard-facing, this bit can power through difficult winter ground with ease. It is always a good idea to stock the necessary replacement carbide cutters. This way, the blade can be rebuilt at a fraction of the cost of replacing, when wear and tear finally catches up with it.
Other bits and blades that fit well into winter drilling include Melfred Borzall’s Rock Saw blade, and its Iron Fist rock tool. The Iron Fist is well-suited for cobbled ground, and allows for superior steering while maintaining forward momentum.
The design uses replaceable carbide “shoes” that wrap across the drilling face of the bit. This protects the body of the tool, allowing for quick and inexpensive replacement of the “shoes”. The mud ports are located high up the steer face, which helps keep them from getting clogged with fine rocks, cuttings, or other winter debris. This also helps to wash stick clay off the steering face, and keeps the bit running true.
For those really difficult conditions, there are even more aggressive tools, such as the Eagle Claw. This bit features a trifecta of aggressive carbide cutters that fracture and chew through more solid ground with ease. The carbide pins are quickly removed in the field, allowing the driller to change out the cutters and get back to work fast.
The right tools for the pullback part of the drilling process is also important to consider in winter. Melfred Borzall’s FastBack tool swap system allows a driller to pilot out with one of their bits, and then with the pullback device, quickly and easily attach a swivel for pullback of the product pipe. Less time changing over means less time out in the cold.
Heading out to a winter job site with the right tools ensures that your equipment will only work as hard as it has to, and your crew will only be out in the cold as long as necessary.