An increased demand for transparency and accountability in underground pipeline and conduit installations leaves organisations with a lot of boxes to tick. These days, it’s no longer enough for contractors to simply prioritise speed in their installation works; they also need to deploy sustainable methods. When searching for sustainable construction methods, it’s hard to look past horizontal directional drilling (HDD) for pipeline and conduit installation across the utility sector.

So, what makes HDD a more sustainable choice? There are four clear factors:

1. Reduced footprint, leading to less damage to the surrounding environment
2. Reduced waste material sent to landfill
3. Reduced impact in heritage and sensitive habitat areas by installing under rather than through
4. Reduced overall power consumption

Reduced footprint

The reality is, installing a pipeline either via trenching or microtunnelling is a project with a large physical footprint. Whether displacing large amounts of dirt for a trench, or digging a substantial pit for a microtunnelling machine to launch from, there is significant disruption to the surrounding environment.

HDD on the other hand offers contractors the ability to ‘go under’, offering a small, controlled construction zone with a relatively easy to manage footprint. Installing pipelines via HDD allows organisations to be leaders in sustainable construction through mitigating the unnecessary waste and environmental disruption that comes with traditional open trench installation. It also reduces the community impacts that critical infrastructure works often create.

Reduced waste material

Open trench installations require the excavation of large amounts of earth and dirt, usually across large areas. These trenches then need to be lined with imported mined bedding material which leaves a large waste stockpile to dispose of. With HDD, drilling commences above ground, and directly into the pipe or conduit route via a small entry hole and exits at a smaller exit pit. HDD displaces less waste than other methods of pipeline installation, which require digging large trenches to lay pipelines or pits to house tunnelling machinery.

The drilling fluids used in modern HDD are environmentally friendly and biodegradable. The waste material is entirely recyclable and is regarded as an excellent additive in reuse applications such as turf production and soil enrichment due to its hygroscopic properties. In addition, at AHD we are importing a new state of the art waste separation system that will set new benchmarks for compact and efficient dewatering and recycling of drilling fluids. Overall, these types of innovations will reduce water use along with the volume of waste material sent to landfill.

Reduced impact in heritage and sensitive habitat areas  

There are a great number of rules and regulations pertainingto heritage-listed sites around Australia, especially when it comes to making changes or carrying out construction.  At AHD, our motto is “Why not go under?”

Going over causes more impact to vegetation and disruption to local animal habitats. Going under avoids all this by providing a small, controlled construction zone with a relatively easy to manage environment and vastly reduced impact to  heritage zones. We now possess the technology to drill in continuous lengths for over a kilometre at diameters up to 1.5m.

AHD can drill the tight grades required for gravity sewer installations to untold depths without the need for costly shoring. HDD technology allows us to curve the drill path to avoid obstacles or to join non-aligned points in space. We regularly design drill shots to go around heritage assets and exit in small windows outside sensitive areas. HDD offers an unparalleled lack of disruption to the prevailing ground conditions which, in turn, results in a vastly reduced impact to heritage zones. This can also speed up projects as it mitigates the need for lengthy permit and approvals processes.

Drilling towards net zero

In the race to decarbonise and meet net zero emissions goals, every little bit counts. Ambitious net zero targets call for emissions reduction processes across all fronts, including pipeline installations in the water, energy and telecommunications industries. This is underscored by the fact that utilities are major consumers of energy. Reducing the energy intensity of any and all parts of their operations will be of critical importance in the years ahead.

When employing HDD installation methods, organisations can construct assets that are delivered on time and within budget while using less pumping power or energy over their lifespan. It can connect the closest points which couldn’t be considered using traditional methods. HDD truly can bring asset owners a step closer to meeting their emissions reduction targets.

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