Edmonton-area driller takes key role in $7B hydro project

Screen shot 2013-09-10 at 10.00.56 PMAn Edmonton-area firm noted for horizontal-drilling work for municipalities and pipeline companies has landed one of its largest contracts yet – in Newfoundland.

In the fall, Direct Horizontal Drilling of Acheson will be moving one of its biggest rigs, along with a convoy of 30 trucks, to begin drilling eight bores on both sides of the Strait of Belle Isle, which separates Labrador from the island of Newfoundland.The eight, 2.5-kilometre-long holes through solid granite will contain the cable conduits carrying power from the new 824-megawatt Muskrat Falls hydro dam to Newfoundland.

Direct Horizontal expects the project to be completed in two years. President Lon Briscoe said the work is worth “millions of dollars” to the firm.

“We are doing the transition from land to ocean; we will drill down then punch out to the seabed far enough from shore to avoid the icebergs, which could tear the cable apart as they scour the coast,” Briscoe said.

“Nothing like this has ever been done … through the solid granite and with that kind of distance. There is a ‘beach approach’ in Europe, but it is 800 metres and this one is 2,500 metres.”

“This contract went out to the world and we won it. Muskrat Falls is a $7.8-billion project,but with out a marine link it would be in trouble.”

Briscoe expects the Belle Isle contract to be expanded to include a second seabed crossing, this one from the tip of southern Newfoundland across to Nova Scotia, where Emera Inc. has plans to strengthen its power grid with contributions from Labrador and send the excess to the U.S. market.

“Our technology is right out of the oilpatch. Horizontal directional drilling was born in the construction industry, but we have taken this and changed it,” Briscoe said.”We won because of our equipment and crews. We can work in severe weather … we work in minus-55 degrees in Alberta.”

Direct Horizontal, which does not do fracking or drilling for hydrocarbons, recently bored sewer lines for Fort McMurray and has done river crossings for TransCanada.

“There is all this talk these days of the dangers of pipelines crossing rivers, but that is based on old technology where they used to dig trenches for the pipe. We can drill 100metres below the river bed, down one side and up the other. We are running 16 horizontal rigs and they are working steady.”

Article from The Edmonton Journal