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HDD technology has become an integral part of the urban landscape due to advancements in the field, the ability to implement it on a larger scale, and the growing demand from society.

Urbanization has led to an increased need for urban, industrial, and engineering infrastructure. Rising land costs have resulted in the densification of city structures. Furthermore, the rapid progress in transportation and the necessity to overcome various obstacles, both man-made and natural, have contributed to this trend.

The environment, influenced by civilization, has become more intricate and susceptible to disruptive interventions that compromise its integrity. As a result, it is no longer feasible to block roads or dig trenches for extended periods without considering the impact on the surroundings.

Martin Cherrington

Martin Cherrington
Martin Cherrington
HDD technology history
HDD technology history

The history of HDD began in the 60s of the last century in America. Martin Cherrington was able to turn an idea into real technology. Martin was a builder, so he was well versed not only in theory, but also in practice. At that moment there were already technologies, but they did not allow one to overcome and manage considerable distances. It was only possible to cross a railway line, a small intersection or a highway in order to extend the pipeline a few tens of meters.

In 1963, in Los Angeles, Martin was laying cable in the traditional way in one of the residential complexes. Cherrington noticed how the drilling workers completed the task much faster. A year later, Martin built the first drilling rig and organized a construction company that specializes in trenchless technology.

During this period, Sacramento authorities decided to improve the city. The President believed that communications disfigure the appearance of the city, so if possible they should be hidden underground. To resolve this issue, a lot of money was allocated, part of which went to Martin’s company. Cherington made a few more installations, and then things slowed down. Trenchless technologies have ceased to receive government and public support. The technology only existed thanks to Martin’s enthusiasm.

In 1971, a California gas company approached Cherrington for help. The gas pipeline from San Francisco needed to cross the river. Traditional technologies did not work – mountain and geological conditions and high cost. It was decided to try drilling.

Martin came up with a plan, but it didn’t work. The builder saw that they were haunted by failures, but he was not afraid to start all over again every time. It was decided to cost a single well.

However, Martin understood that verification was needed. He decided to experiment using another river as an example. Cherrington combined horizontal drilling and directional drilling. The result met all expectations. So Martin became the creator of a new technology. The risk was worth it.

In subsequent years, Cherrington himself broke his own records: more and more transitions appeared. Instead of concrete mortar, water was used, and improvised tools were used instead of specialized equipment.

1972-1979 – Martin Cherrington (and others) drilled 36 holes under rivers and roads.
1979 – development of the “design” of a horizontal drilling rig for close to surface applications with an inclined drill carriage for laying pipelines.
1980 – beginning of data collection on drilling technology.
1982-1985- former Boeing engineers, together with scientists from EPRI (US Electric Power Research Institute), proposed a method for developing soil using a jet stream. The result was small installations (company FlowMole) for laying 1 kV cable. The installations had an amplifier to create high pressure of the drilling fluid, their own location system, flexible rods and asymmetric drilling rigs.
1983-1985 – Gas Research Institute of Chicago and Charles Maschine Works (Ditch Witch) developed a dry horizontal drilling system with a location system. Drill-Ring with a soil-penetrating projectile (compressed air rocket) with a hollow drill rod.
1985 – a depth of 13,000 m was reached using deep drilling technology.
1986- Europe’s first HDD drilling was carried out at the Karlsruhe research center. For this purpose, FlowTex was founded – as the copyright holder of FlowMole – for the commercial installation of cables and pipelines.
1987 – HDD technology was applied in the areas of Karslruhe, Mannheim, Stuttgart and Hamburg: first with 2, then 4 installations.
1987 – first use of HDD in England.
1987 – development of the first German controlled dry drilling installation (Grundomole) by Tracto-Technik.
1989 – the first HDD – a puncture under an office building.
1989 – development of the first HDD installation working with drilling fluid (Ettlingen/K8K and Lennestadt/Grundojet).
1989- the first environmentally friendly use of HDD in the military zone of Frankfurt Airport (construction of an exhaust connecting pipeline by the airfield).
1989 – simultaneous parallel tightening of pipelines.
1990 – the first HDD installation for waste sanitation.
1991 – start of production of large HDD machines.
1991 – Tracto-Technik released the Grundodrill installation.
1991 – first application of HDD in Brno (Brunne) in Eastern Europe.
1991 – first high-pressure injection in horizontal drilling (Geutzsche quarry site in Bitterfeld).
1989-1991 – numerous companies engaged in HDD are created in Germany.
1992 – within a few months, with the help of numerous HDD installations, utility pipelines (water and gas pipelines) were completely replaced.
1993 – the first industry congress of guided drilling professionals (FAGEBO).
1993 – tightening of a new pipe into the old one using HDD with simultaneous insulation of the interpipe space.
1995 – laying of cast iron pipes in Krefeld using horizontal directional drilling.
1995 – first use of Mud-Motor for HDD (deep drilling).
1995 – waste remediation using the HDD system using air extraction of soil.
1995 – the first use of HDD installations in Russia.
1996- descent sanitation using HDD.
1996 – The first manual on the use of HDD is published. 1998 – The prototype of the first fully automatic installation is tested at the Sellingen airfield in Baden-Baden.
2001 – development of special Mud-Motor HDDs.
2002 – installation of horizontal anchors with HDD – installation in Frankfurt am Main.
2002 – drilling in hard rock using a drill hammer.
2003 – GW 321, a technical regulatory mechanism for HDD laying of gas and water pipelines, comes into force.
2004 – the largest HDD installation was created in Europe (Wenden, Olpe) – a 450-ton Prime Drilling installation.

2004-2010: During this phase, there was continuous innovation in the technology of horizontal directional drilling machines. Drilling techniques were improved and refined, leading to enhanced performance and precision of the drilling equipment. This period also witnessed the widespread application of HDD technology, particularly in the fields of oil and natural gas extraction.

2010-2015: As the technology matured, horizontal directional drilling machines gradually moved towards industrialization. Manufacturers began mass-producing more efficient and stable HDD equipment. This stage saw HDD becoming an essential means to improve the efficiency of oil and gas extraction, with widespread adoption.

2015-2020: Entering this phase, horizontal directional drilling machines started advancing towards intelligence. The equipment was equipped with more advanced control systems and sensor technologies, enabling automation and remote operation. The application of technologies such as artificial intelligence and big data made the drilling process more precise and efficient.

2020-present: In recent years, the HDD industry has increasingly focused on green and environmental development. The design and manufacturing of HDD equipment now emphasize energy conservation and emission reduction, minimizing environmental impact. Furthermore, the application of drilling technologies now emphasizes sustainable resource utilization, propelling the industry towards more environmentally friendly and sustainable practices.

These stages collectively form the development history of horizontal directional drilling machines, witnessing the technology’s progression from inception and maturity towards intelligence and environmental consciousness.

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