Articles & Case Studies

GPS Pipe Excels at Directional Drilling

Posted: Thursday 7th October 2010

The installation of a new water pipeline at the heart of Maidenhead’s Town Moor called for zero environmental and social impact. The use of polyethylene pipes from GPS PE Pipe Systems enabled this aspiration to be successfully achieved.

Rich with wildlife, popular with visitors and close to the town centre, the site presented an interesting challenge to the contractor Clancy Docwra. Not only did they have to minimize impact on the surrounding area, they also had to return the Moor to its recreational use as quickly as possible, in time for the town’s major public event in August.

As the pipeline had to cross the Moor’s waterside in three areas, directional drilling was chosen as the optimal technique to prevent disturbance to its wetland habitat and species.

Minimal disturbance is achieved by digging a pit at each end of the pipe section and boring horizontally underground with a removable drill head matched to soil conditions and a series of drill stems to push and rotate the head. The head of the tool is steered from one pit to the other using a mobile transmitter. Once the pilot bore is completed, a reamer is attached to the drill stem and pulled back - enlarging the bore to accommodate the pipe that is subsequently pulled into place.

Pipes used in directional drilling must meet exceptional demands, as they may be pulled through underground tunnels over considerable distances. South East Water took advantage of Excel® high performance polyethylene (HPPE) pipe manufactured by Cambridgeshire-based GPS PE Pipe Systems. With its outstanding resistance to rapid crack propagation, long term stress cracking and corrosion, Excel® has proven to withstand the heavy loads associated with directional drilling. In total 660m of butt-fused 500mm pipe in SDR17 and SDR 11 was supplied to complete the work.

With the watercourse left undisturbed and less disruption to visitors, the work was completed within the programmed timescales and all parties were satisfied with the outcome. Installed by open-cut in the ‘dry’ sections of the pipework, Excel® reduced the installation time through its ability to be ‘snaked’ into the trenches, as flexible pipe strings welded from multiple 12m lengths. The directional drilling method also saved time, being about 25% quicker than full trenching, in those sections where it was used.

The new £2.3 million pipeline forms part of the wider £390 million five-year infrastructure programme by South East Water to secure future water supplies. Its completion will see an extra 2.5 million litres of water transferred from a nearby water treatment works into Maidenhead’s water supply network.

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