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Genesis of an Industry

DTD’s history can be traced directly back to the initial development of directional drilling for utilities installation. In the mid-1980s, the Electric Power Research Institute and the Gas Research Institute recognized the immense expenditures that would be involved in replacing much of the nation’s aging underground energy distribution infrastructure using conventional methods. The research funded by EPRI and GRI resulted in the design and manufacture of the industry’s first small directional drilling rigs designed for shallow (less than 75 feet below ground surface) borings.

Flow Industries, a technology leader in the design and application of fluid cutting technology, was the first to license and apply the EPRI technologies. FlowMole drill rigs were the first to take the technology to the field for the installation of underground utility lines (telephone, electrical, and gas) in the late 1980s.

As this technology matured, the environmental remediation industry was also seeing budgets balloon out of control, as the costs associated with excavation and disposal of contaminated soil grew exponentially. In-situ treatment technologies had proven to be effective, but delivery of the treatment process to the soil being treated was problematic. How could contaminated soil and groundwater be treated in place in a cost-effective manner?

Early research by the Department of Energy at Savannah River provided part of the answer. Directional borings using large equipment based on oilfield technology were successful in cleaning up contaminated soil and groundwater, but the equipment used was expensive to operate, required a large operating area, and was not applicable to smaller, shallower projects. The stage was set for a convergence of technology.

Priming the HDD Market: Flowmole Environmental Services Corp.

In 1994, Unocal Oil Company and UTILX started a joint venture that was to pioneer the use of small horizontal directional drilling rigs for environmental remediation. This venture evolved into FlowMole Environmental Services Corp., which quickly began leading the industry in providing innovative applications of directional drilling. By the end of 1995, FlowMole Environmental had installed over one-half of all horizontal wells for environmental remediation, according to a study by the Colorado Center for Environmental Management.

By the end of 1995, FlowMole Environmental had established the effectiveness of directional drilling for environmental remediation though the installation of dozens of horizontal environmental remediation wells throughout the U.S., Europe, and Japan. FlowMole personnel had solved many of the challenges of adapting environmental well products for use in a horizontal application, and had developed a myriad of specialized techniques for the design, installation, and development of horizontal wells. While FlowMole Environmental Services clearly demonstrated the effectiveness of horizontal remediation systems, the market for these services was limited outside of Unocal and a few innovative engineering companies.

Continuing Innovation: Directed Technologies Drilling, Inc.

In January 1996, the former managers and employees of FlowMole Environmental launched Directed Technologies Drilling, Inc. DTD continued the successful application of directional drilling technology started by FlowMole. DTD personnel completed wells throughout the United States and at several European locations. They pioneered the use of horizontal wells in Alaska, installed deep groundwater extraction wells at a Department of Energy site in Ohio, and completed complex installations at refineries in Louisiana and Texas.

DTD continued to lead the industry in installed footage of completed, operational wells. This expertise was recognized by other industry leaders: Vermeer Manufacturing, the world’s largest manufacturer of directional drills, asked DTD to co-write their comprehensive manual on horizontal remediation wells. DTD developed innovative well screen materials for horizontal wells. “Soil and Groundwater Cleanup,” “International Groundwater Technology,” and other periodicals featured articles written by DTD staff on topics of importance to horizontal well designers.

In 2019, DTD was acquired by Ellingson Companies of Minnesota. With 50-year history of supporting agriculture in teh midwest through water control, as well as broad services for installing and maintaining buried infrastructure, including directional drilling, Ellingson and DTD proved to be a great match. Now operating as Ellingson-DTD, we continue our tradition of directional drilling for environmental remediation, with expansion into sustainable energy.

Tracing our roots to the beginnings of the horizontal drilling industry, Ellingson-DTD uses tested, proven techniques for installing horizontal wells and continues the tradition started by FlowMole Environmental as the industry innovator in developing techniques, tooling and products to increase the value of HDD as a tool for site remediation.