North American Society for Trenchless Technology (NASTT

NASTT’s 2015 No-Dig Show
Denver, Colorado
March 15-19, 2015


Direct Pipe® Levee Crossing Design – Mitigating
Hydraulic Fracture Risk
Jonathan L. Robison, PE, GeoEngineers, Inc., Springfield, Missouri
Andrew E. Sparks, PE, GeoEngineers, Inc., Salt Lake City, Utah



Hydraulic fracture of soil during horizontal directional drill (HDD) construction can lead to migration of drilling
fluid to the ground surface within wetlands, water bodies, basements or other structures. The hydraulic fracture and
subsequent migration of drilling fluid can cause ground surface settlement, bearing capacity failure, undesired
seepage flow path creation, and other undesirable or even disastrous consequences. Evaluating and mitigating the
risk of hydraulic fracture of soils beneath critical infrastructure during trenchless construction is of paramount
importance to both the pipeline and overlying infrastructure owners. Direct Pipe® (DP) is a relatively new trenchless
technology wherein a microtunnel boring machine (MTBM) and jacking pipe is installed through a curved drive
with a DP Pipe Thruster machine providing the motive force. Relatively low (compared to HDD) pressures are
developed during DP construction. DP therefore has potential application anywhere hydraulic fracture and
inadvertent drilling fluid returns risk is of concern. This paper presents a methodology for assessing hydraulic
fracture risk and provides a hypothetical project example of this risk assessment for trenchless crossings using the
DP method.


The purpose of this paper is to discuss and provide an engineering basis for the application of DP
technology to levee crossings or other critical areas that are especially sensitive to hydraulic fracture (HF) and
inadvertent drilling fluid returns (IR) risk during trenchless installation.
The design methods and example presented in this paper builds upon and references the authors previously
presented DP design calculations which assess anticipated jacking loads and installation axial, bending, hoop and
combined stresses along with buckling risk and operating stresses (Robison, et al, 2013) and the estimation of
jacking loads for DP projects (Robison and Hotz, 2014). These aspects of DP design are not specifically duplicated
in this paper.
Working on a United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) regulated levee crossing in south Texas,
the authors developed a DP design methodology to assess risk associated with the potential for hydraulic fracture of
the foundation soils beneath the levee during trenchless construction. This work builds on and incorporates the
author’s previously-developed DP design procedure (Robison, et al, 2013). Specifically, this paper suggests and,
using a hypothetical project example, demonstrates a method for assessing:
Soil formation limit pressure based upon cavity expansion theory,
• Anticipated DP-generated fluid pressures at depth, including both bentonite lubrication system and soil
excavation slurry system, and
• Modeling and calculation of factors of safety against hydraulic fracture for the length of the crossing.

Paper WM-T4-04 - 1

strength and operating pressure. un-clamps. Assessment of the difference between estimated and allowable jacking force and associated risk.The results of the calculations and modeling indicate the DP method offers promise as an option to reduce the risk of hydraulic fracture to levees and/or other important infrastructure relative to the HDD method. and pushes again allowing for a relatively long. conventional microtunneling. Paper WM-T4-04 . as discussed in detail below. Also unlike HDD. 3. DIRECT PIPE INSTALLATION PROCESS The DP construction method is essentially an one-pass. curved microtunnel installed using a conventional MTBM mated to either the product pipe or jacking pipe and jacked through the length of the drive by a pipe thruster assembly. the hole is continuously supported and during installation the pipe is in compression. A photograph of a pipe thruster and stringing area is shown in Figure 1. Calculation of the operating condition stresses for a given pipe geometry. size. Unlike traditional microtunneling. Also unlike traditional microtunneling. Unlike HDD. The pipe thruster grasps the jacking pipe externally. reducing the expense of deep launching and receiving shafts required for straight-line. the use of the pipe thruster allows the pipe to be jacked in a continuous string by clamping around the pipe.2 . not tension. strength and geometry during pipe installation. drives a set distance. Pipe Thruster and String The engineering analyses required for design of a DP installation focus on five items: 1. 2. Estimation of jacking forces required to accomplish the drive. To create the desired curve. the soil formations in the near vicinity of the tunneling machine are not subject to high pressures from slurry systems. 4. 5. re-sets. similar to pre-installation pipe stringing areas possible with the HDD method. 3. This allows for pre-installation testing of pipes similar to HDD construction procedures. Figure 1. Assessment of hydraulic fracture risk (if and as required). continuous pipe string(s) to extend behind the jacking or launch pit. articulated joints within the machine assembly provide for steering capability as the pipe is jacked producing a curved alignment similar to those possible with HDD. Calculation of allowable jacking forces and stresses for the design pipe size. the entry and exit pits may be designed at or near the ground surface.

regulators and pipeline owners commonly require an assessment of the risk the trenchless installation poses to the integrity of the levee and levee foundation soils. The procedures used to evaluate the potential for slurry loss through hydraulic fracturing are based primarily on research completed by Delft Geotechnics. (2013) and Robison and Hotz (2014). Item 5 is discussed in Sparks and Bearden (2011) as it relates to HDD design and construction. the hydraulic fracturing can result in foundation support degradation for soil-based structures. The fluid can then travel through the fractures in the soil resulting in a drilling fluid surface release or IR.Items 1. This requirement is often applied both to the subsurface directly beneath the levee and to an area known as a pressure Paper WM-T4-04 . 1998).3 .0. et al. require that Horizontal Directional Drill (HDD) installations beneath their regulated levees meet a minimum factor of safety (FOS) against hydraulic fracture of 2. ft The factor of safety (FOS) against the occurrence of HF is simply the FLP divided by the anticipated downhole pressure. Through presentation and demonstration of a suggested design analysis method. The general equation for the maximum formation limit pressure is shown in Equation 1. The method commonly used in the trenchless industry to evaluate the potential for hydraulic fracture is derived from cavity expansion theory. If the drilling fluid does not migrate to the ground surface. 4. In these situations. a good reference for calculation of item 4 is the PRCI Design Guide (Watson. During construction. 2. this paper focuses on item 5. psf G Shear Modulus. as discussed in Appendix B of the USACE Report CPAR-GL-98 (Staheli et al. psf R0 Radius of drilled hole. Item 4 is essentially the same evaluation used for HDD. the pressures generated may be monitored and compared with a desired or specified maximum allowable pressure to maintain a desired FOS. Some regulatory agencies in particular..1 Regulatory Environment Of particular concern to the trenchless industry is the potential of hydraulic fracture of the foundation soils beneath and adjacent to flood-control levees during trenchless pipeline installations. 1995). HF of soil occurs when the fluid pressure within the borehole or tunneling zone exceeds the surrounding soil formation limit pressure. ft Rpmax Maximum radius of plastic deformation of drilled hole. 4. degrees c Cohesion. creation or enlargement of flow paths with increased seepage potential. impacts to ground and surface waters. psf σ’0 Effective vertical stress. and other undesirable consequences. assessment of hydraulic fracture (HF) risk for DP design and how it compares to HF calculation for HDD design. The cavity expansion model is used to estimate the maximum effective pressure or Formation Limit Pressure (FLP) in the drilled hole or tunnel before plastic deformation of the surrounding soil occurs. HYDRAULIC FRACTURE In a trenchless installation. and 3 are discussed in Robison. [1] Where: Pmax φ Formation Limit Pressure – Maximum pressure the soil can withstand before hydraulic fracture occurs Angle of internal friction. The estimation of the FLP considers the total and effective overburden stresses as well as shear strengths of the soil.

5.0. feet Although the hydrostatic pressure typically will control the design. In order to estimate the pressures developed from the bentonite lubrication system. pcf γf Drilling Fluid Unit Weight.4 . In the author’s experience. The pressure needed to push the lubrication fluid into the annulus is only slightly higher than the surrounding groundwater pressure. 2013).2 Cuttings Removal Fluid System The cuttings removal fluid system operates by means of a pump located just behind the MTBM. The parameters assumed for this analysis are a 48-inch-diameter steel pipe installation beneath a levee in clay with the following design parameters: Paper WM-T4-04 . lubricating the pipe as it moves through the surrounding formation.1 Bentonite Lubrication System The bentonite lubrication system introduces bentonite-water slurry into the excavated tunnel at the launch seal at the launch pit and through the lubrication ring located between the MTBM and the jacking pipe. 6. This fluid is simply a water and bentonite mixture and is intended to fill the overcut annulus behind the MTBM. detailed records of pressures and fluid volumes. The hydrostatic pressure developed by the drilling fluid column is the height of the column multiplied by the density of the drilling fluid as expressed in Equation 2: [2] Where: Pdf Hydrostatic Drilling Fluid Pressure. 5. The very high pressures required by HDD to circulate cuttings through the length of the drilled hole are not required for DP. DIRECT PIPE FLUID SYSTEMS Two fluids systems are used by the DP equipment during installation and produce pressure at depth during DP construction: • Bentonite lubrication system. theoretical example given to illustrate the application of the above described theory for assessment of a trenchless crossing of a levee at a cohesive soil site. Depending on soil conditions. the entire column of drilling fluid is assumed to be continuous and apply pressure to the soil formation at depth. the above-referenced FOS requirement has been applied to DP installation as well. EXAMPLE SITE ASSESSMENT The following is a simplified.monitoring zone (PMZ) located a specified distance (depending on the agency) on either side of the levee.1bar or +/-1.or under-pressure is typically applied (approximately +/. 5. the final lubrication system fluids analysis must also consider the lubrication system pumping pressure and provide a maximum lubrication system pumping pressure not to be exceeded during construction. pcf Hf Height of Drilling Fluid. a slight over. • Cuttings removal fluid system. As with the lubrication system analysis. In slurry Microtunneling. the engineer should provide maximum fluid pressures for the cuttings removal fluid system not to exceed to provide for the required factor of safety during construction. the pressure in the excavation chamber is adjusted to stabilize the tunnel face (face pressure) while advancing the machine by counterbalancing the earth and groundwater pressures.5 pounds per square inch [psi]) (Lang. The two systems operate independently and are capable of real-time pressure monitoring and maintain automated.

consider an HDD crossing with the above-referenced conditions. Estimated Annular Drilling Fluid and Formation Limit Pressures Paper WM-T4-04 . This is confirmed in Figure 3 below where the factor of safety is less than 1. The formation limit pressure based on the soil properties presented above is shown as the green line for the HDD profile. from approximate Station 23+00 to the exit point the reverse is true and therefore hydraulic fracture of the soil is predicted in this area. As presented in Figure 2.• • • • • φ = 0 degrees c = 2000 pounds per square foot (psf) γ = 120 pounds per cubic feet (pcf) Groundwater table assumed at the ground surface. FOS of 2. First. The following tooling and drilling fluid properties assumptions are made: • • • • • Pilot hole diameter 9. Figure 2.0 against HF required. within the pressure monitoring zone the formation limit pressure is greater than the anticipated drilling fluid pressure.5 pounds per gallon (ppg) Plastic viscosity 10 centipoise (cp) Yield point 20 pounds/100 feet Figure 2 below shows the anticipated drilling fluid pressure to remove cuttings-laden drilling fluid from the drilled hole based on the above HDD tooling and drilling fluid properties as the red line.875 inches Drill pipe outside diameter 5.5 .50 inches Drilling fluid weight 9.

5 in the PMZ. Figure 3.6 . allowing for a shorter horizontal length. Paper WM-T4-04 . shown by the green line. For this example. are calculated by taking the ratio of the formation limit pressure to the drilling fluid pressure for points along the HDD profile. the horizontal DP length is equal to the horizontal HDD length for comparison. the horizontal length could be reduced by as much as 50 percent or more when compared to an HDD in similar topographic conditions. indicating an HDD attempted under these conditions would have an unacceptably high risk of hydraulic fracture. however in a typical DP case. The factors of safety. Because DP installations do not require high drilling fluid pressures and the excavated hole is continuously filled with the MTBM and casing. the DP profile is typically shallower.Figure 3 below provides the theoretical factor of safety against hydraulic fracture for the HDD.0 and are generally less than 1. The factors of safety against drilling fluid surface release are shown by red triangles representing the risk of drilling fluid migrating to the ground surface. Hydraulic Fracture and Drilling Fluid Surface Release Factors of Safety The calculated factors of safety against hydraulic fracture of the clay within the PMZ are less than the typically required 2.

5 psi.0 within the PMZ resulting in generally favorable conditions for DP installation. For our analysis we assume a slurry weight of 9. Figure 4 below shows the estimated lubrication system and face pressures for the theoretical DP profile as the red and orange lines. The factors of safety against hydraulic fracture for the lubrication system and face pressure are shown as the green and blue lines respectively. The factors of safety are above the required 2. Paper WM-T4-04 . Hydrostatic Fluid Pressure and Formation Limit Pressures Finally.Assessing the same subsurface soil and groundwater conditions for the DP case. we consider the factor of safety against drilling fluid surface release for the two DP fluids systems.5 pounds per gallon (ppg) and a continuous fluid head from entry through the length of the drive for the bentonite lubrication system.7 . Figure 4. respectively. the two DP fluid systems introduced above must be independently assessed. The estimated formation limit pressure based on the soil properties are shown as the green line. Figure 5 below shows the results of the assessment of the DP fluids systems. For the cuttings return system we assume that it operates at hydrostatic groundwater pressure plus 1.

Hotz. Based on the detailed hydraulic fracture calculations and analyses discussed above for the two cases. with errata and supplements December 2002.. the factors of safety against hydraulic fracture for DP are typically higher and the corresponding risks lower than for a similar HDD installation. (2013). Recommended Practice for Planning. and October 2007).. Robison. Lang. Hotz. REFERENCES API Recommended Practice 2A-WSD. J. 864. 8. Robison. C. “Direct Pipe – Estimated and Actual Installation Load Analyses for 20 Crossings” North American Society for Trenchless Technology 2014 No-Dig Show Paper TM2-T5-04 Paper WM-T4-04 . (21st Ed. “Emerging Technologies – A Suggested Design Method for Jacked.8 .. R. and the authors’ experience with ongoing DP project work. Herrenknecht. Chen. As a result.. the anticipated fluid pressures can be much less than those required for HDD. personal communication to the author.Figure 5. G. Curved Steel Pipe” ASCE Pipelines Conference Proceedings pp. CONCLUSIONS Because DP installations do not have to transport cuttings-laden drilling fluid through the annulus back to the ground surface like and HDD installation. R. (2013). December 2000. AG. (2014). September 2005. J. we believe the DP method holds a great deal of promise for applications where levee safety or other reasons preclude the use of HDD and a lower-pressure trenchless installation alternative is required. Designing and Constructing Fixed Offshore Platforms-Working Stress Design. Hydrostatic Fluid Pressure Factors of Safety 7.

United States Army Corps of Engineers. “Hydraulic Fracture and Inadvertent Returns Evaluation and HDD Construction – Rheology is Key” North American Society for Trenchless Technology 2011 No-Dig Show Paper D-1-01 Staheli. “Installation of Pipelines Beneath Levees Using Horizontal Directional Drilling. A. updated July. Waterways Experiment Station.” U.. D. CELMN-ED-F. USACE report. Inc. Army Corps of Engineers. titled “Guidelines for Permit Review. Paper WM-T4-04 . (1995). Watson..Sparks. “Installation of Pipelines by Horizontal Directional Drilling an Engineering Design Guide” Pipeline Research Council International. 2012. CPAR-98-1.S. D. et al. 1998. Installing Pipelines by Nearsurface Directional Drilling Under Levees”. (2011).9 . Bearden.

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