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Cold Weather and Hard Ground

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It’s hard to imagine anyone more ready for the onset of warm spring weather than folks working in the field. Sub-freezing temperatures wreak havoc on a drilling operation. The engines don’t run right. The drilling fluid constantly freezes. Production slows to a trickle. The crews spend most of their day either warming up equipment in the morning or winterizing it before night falls.

Ellingson crews wrapped up a challenging river crossing in the upper midwest last month. Not only did this particular job feature sub-zero temperatures common in that part of the country in February, but the formation included shales and gravels with relatively soft overburden.

Challenging Conditions Require Big Rig

The project involved a 12″ gas line relocation 730ft across a river. Although that doesn’t represent a particularly long shot, Ellingson mobilized a 210,000lb drill to address the challenging geology anticipated below the alluvium.

The crew utlized a magnetic steering sytem along with a 6-3/4 mud motor to complete the pilot hole. A single ream pass opened the bore up to it’s final 18″ diameter. After swabbing the bore, crews pulled the pipe back from exit with a single mid-weld.

plan view of gas line relocation river crossing

Fig 1. – plan view of gas line relocation river crossing

The crews ran full-time propane heaters within equipment tents to keep mud flowing and engines running.

Thanks to thoughtful preparations and hard work, the field crews made quick work out of what could have easily turned into a headache of a project. In less than a calendar week the gas line was installed to full length and the crew demobilized without incident or injury.

Of course, we’d prefer to never have to work in the cold or drill in hard ground. But it’s not always up to us. Thankfully warmer weather is on the horizon, so the next time we run into shale and gravels we won’t also be dealing with freezing conditions.


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