Marcellus Trade Group Issues Pipeline Boring Recommendations

The State Journal
23 May 2013
By Pam Kasey

Pipeline boring is the subject of the seventh guidance document issued by the Marcellus Shale Coalition.

Recommended Practices for Pipeline Boring, released May 22, offers best practices for the process used by pipeline companies to install pipelines under highways, railroads and bodies of water in instances where traditional trenching is not feasible.

"Building the required pipeline infrastructure to safely transport natural gas from the wellhead to the marketplace is a huge undertaking and one that requires much due diligence," stated MSC CEO Kathryn Klaber.

"These Recommended Practices for Pipeline Boring provide operators with a road map to ensure that these projects are constructed with the highest degree of integrity, that operators plan appropriately prior to construction and that contingency plans are in place," Klaber said.

While most pipeline construction is completed through trenching, boring often is used when crossing under a body of water, highway or railroad. An approved path is drilled beneath the surface feature.

In addition to obtaining all required permits, operators need to plan their projects by evaluating the site topography, subsurface conditions and the presence of other surface features such as above- and below-ground utilities, the guidance document recommends.

Operators also may conduct geotechnical investigations in or adjacent to planned bore areas, while also developing bore profiles and contingency plans. The guideline document also provide detailed information on contingency planning for an inadvertent return, a process when boring fluid comes to the surface through natural cracks in the subsurface that may not have been identified during the planning phase.

Operators use a drilling fluid that includes bentonite clay to aid in the drilling process.

"While bentonite is a non-hazardous compound that has many common applications, it's important that the public has a good, fact-based understanding of this process, and that operators plan accordingly should they experience an inadvertent return during pipeline boring," Klaber said. "MSC member companies are dedicated to operating transparently and in a safe and environmentally responsible manner."

The MSC's recommended practices documents may be found on the organization's website.