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Shore approach

Aaron McPhee! DrillTec! Australia! describes the installation of the landfalls at Seaspray in Victoria and Five Mile Bluff in Tasmania! by way of horizontal directional drilling"

rillTec Australia, Pty Ltd, a 100% daughter of DrillTec GUT GmbH, was awarded the pipeline shore approach work by Allseas Construction Contractors SA for the Duke Energy International (DEI) Tasmania Natural Gas Project (TNGP) in late 2001. As well as the installation of landfalls, Project 4225 included the provision of marine support and testing services for the pre and post pull hydrotesting of the shore approach product pipe strings. In order to meet the Allseas schedule two 250 t capacity, drilling rigs were mobilised for the project, one for each side. Work commenced first in Tasmania as the 860 m long drill was through a varying strength vesicular basalt formation. This was expected to take a considerable time to drill, not just because of the rock strength but due to the fractured nature of some sections of the drill profile. Prior to work commencing in Tasmania, the planned DrillTec operation was subjected to intense scrutiny from environmental bodies and, as the first onshore work on the entire project, DrillTec needed to ensure that recommendations and requirements from the environmental impact assessment and public consultations were incorporated into the execution procedures. DrillTec developed an HSE plan that incorporated the overall findings of the EIA, and job site specific measures that would be taken to protect the environment. Work commenced in Tasmania in late December 2001, utilising a system based on the tools and techniques developed by DrillTec on another recent international hard rock project.

Figure 1. Barrel in sting short.

Pilot hole drilling

The pilot hole drilling was carried out using a 9.875 in. TCI bit and 6.75 in. mud motor. Varying formation, which consisted of both competent and fractured basalt and other unconsolidated formations, were encountered. Some of these sections required innovative solutions to enable hole sealing and hole stabilisation. Aaron McPhee (DrillTec Project Manager) had the following comment about the situation, Due to the problems associated with drilling through some difficult ground, we had to develop some new methods to assist in completion of

drilling operations. We essentially needed a hole that could not only be reamed out to its full size, but to also accept a product pipe. Many industry experts were consulted to come up with a selection of options that were available for use, depending on the situation. Its a credit to all parties involved in the decision making process that the end result was both a successful hole and pullback operation. For environmental and technical reasons the borehole was being reamed with a sealed end at the seabed and relying on 100% return of drilling fluid to the rig. The gravel section could not be sealed and it was not possible to prevent loss of drilling fluid to the formation. The fractured basalt sections had successfully been grouted to prevent fluid loss, however it was not possible to seal the gravel area despite the use of considerable volumes of grout. It was decided to re-drill the pilot in an attempt to avoid the gravel layer. The final drill profile was up to 12 m below the original design profile and from low point to rig reached a depth of 85 m. The pilot hole was completed and the position on the seabed checked before the hole was sealed (to maintain fluid returns to the rig) and reaming operations were carried out. The hole was enlarged in two stages 17.5 in.


Figure 2. Rig site in Tasmania.

Figure 3. View of lay barge from rig site.

(445 mm) and 26 in. (660 mm) using tools developed by DrillTec for forward reaming.

Reaming and pullback

The reaming works were punctuated by several pressure grouting operations that slowed the progress considerably, however it was important to ensure that the quality of the hole was such that it could be kept conditioned and open for an extended period even through the highly fractured zones. The weather in the Bass Strait is unpredictable and the timing for the pullback of the product string was not fixed, as the Figure 4. Lay barge off the coast of Victoria crossings marine operations relied on suit- Tasmania. able weather conditions throughout The Victoria drilling operation comthe hook up and pullback works. menced in February 2002 at a site in In the event of fluid loss due to fracSeaspray, and involved the installation of tures or unconsolidated formations, it a 1200 m long shore crossing section. was a requirement that the surface of This drill was a soft formation crossing the drill alignment was checked for and presented a different set of chalbreak out of mud. This entailed charlenges with regard to scheduling and tering a plane and flying over the area coordination with marine operations. in an attempt to spot any fluid reaching After pre-proving the pilot hole to the seabed or beach. ensure scheduling could be planned The pullback operations were delayed for over a week accurately to avoid laybarge downtime, work commenced on whilst waiting for a suitable weather window, during which 19th March. The hole was pre-reamed and ready for pullback time the hole was constantly cleaned and conditioned to by 24th March. The 1500 m long product string had been preensure debris from the fractured zones, or elsewhere, could laid on the seabed by the DPPLV Lorelay and pre-tested, and not enter the hole. The 355 mm diameter product pipe was following dewatering of the pipe the section was pulled into fitted with anodes and spacers every 12 m, increasing the the drilled hole. Over 100 t of pull force was required to overall diameter to approximately 420 mm and, as the break the pipe suction on the seabed; this was well under methodology had been changed from the original plan, the the 250 t capacity of the rig.

spacers and anodes were attached during pulling operations increasing the overall pullback time to 48 hrs. The product pipe was pulled direct from a dynamically positioned pipe lay vessel, the DPPLV Lorelay. The HDD drill pipe was pushed out from the exit hole and manoeuvred into position by a support vessel to the end of the laybarge stinger, approximately 300 m from the seabed exit hole. The reamer and drill pipe was winched up the DPPLV Lorelay stinger and attached to the pulling head on the product pipe. Pipe was welded as the rig pulled the pipe into the drilled hole.

Figures 5a and 5b. Drilltec Rig in Tasmania.

The trouble free drilling of this crossing was could at least partly be attributed to DrillTecs experience throughout Europe, where it is proficient in soft hole drilling. This experience proved invaluable in the planning and execution of the crossing. Both projects were completely different in nature and therefore, input was required from a range of people within the organisation during the planning stages. Drilltech was pleased to be awarded the contract, as working in Australia presented a varying range of challenges, particularly coordinating with the numerous stringent regularity bodies involved with a project of this size.

After completion of the Seaspray crossing, the company was contracted by Allseas to install a 1200 m shore approach crossing for another major energy company linking the onshore and offshore sections of a main line from the platform to the Longford gas plant. This project was successfully completed in June 2002 without any major problems. DrillTec started the project having not previously worked in Australia but with three major shore approaches completed for international clients. The company will continue in the region and pursue further difficult and challenging HDD opportunities.



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