Slurry Density and Hoop Stress During HDD Installation – Are they Underestimated

CCI Solutions continues to stay at the fore front of Horizontal Directional Drilling methods and designs through continued education and research by the employees. Recently a CCI Project Manager and University of Alberta Ph. D Research Associate, Ashkan Faghih completed a paper; Slurry Density and Hoop Stress During HDD Installation – Are they Underestimated? 

The paper was then submitted to a research poster competition held at the NASTT No-Dig Show earlier this year. Ashkan’s poster was judged among 20 North American Universities and awarded second prize! 

Ashkan’s paper looks at the importance of assuming a heavy slurry for hoop stress calculations when designing a horizontal direction drill. It also describes that external hoop stress on a pipe product during the pullback process is particularly high and the necessity of including a safety factor to the pipe analysis. Ashkan goes on to refer to data collected at several HDD installation sites and explains how the data “…identifies the need to improve design assumptions”. This type of research is applicable to many engineers designing HDD pullbacks and the increased knowledge betters the industry as a whole. 

Research papers like this one, ensure that every horizontal directional drill CCI works on is of the highest standards. At CCI Solutions, the mission continues to be to deliver service excellence in a safe and timely manner through the application of our specialized knowledge and experience. 

To see the award winning research poster click on the photo below.



CCI Inc 2019 Best Managed Press Release

CCI Inc was recognized for overall business performance and sustained growth with the prestigious Canada’s Best Managed Companies designation. The 2019 Best Managed program award winners are amongst the best-in-class of Canadian owned and managed companies with revenues over $15 million demonstrating strategy, capability and commitment to achieve sustainable growth.

Now in its 26th year, Canada’s Best Managed Companies is one of the country’s leading business awards programs recognizing Canadian-owned and managed companies for innovative, world-class business practices. Every year, hundreds of entrepreneurial companies compete for this designation in a rigorous and independent process that evaluates the calibre of their management abilities and practices.

CCI Inc. is a leading expert in Horizontal Directional Drilling, Open-Cut and Micro-Tunneling methods. We are proud to be a driving force in the continued advancement of trenchless pipeline systems and employ proven methods for tackling difficult river crossings. CCI provides award winning, highly technical services to the pipeline, oil & gas and municipal infrastructure sectors.  

“Businesses today need to be thinking long-term to succeed, and this year’s Best Managed winners are truly going the distance in investing in the future,” said Peter Brown, Partner, Deloitte Private and Co-Leader, Canada’s Best Managed Companies program. “These companies can celebrate their accomplishments today, and should be excited for tomorrow.”

Applicants are evaluated by an independent judging panel comprised of representatives from program sponsors in addition to special guest judges. 2019 Best Managed companies share commonalities that include a clear strategy and vision, investment in capability and commitment to talent.

“CCI Inc is tremendously proud to continue to be among such a worthy field of Canadian business success stories,” said David Dupuis, Chief Operating Officer at CCI Inc. “We credit our talented pool of highly qualified technical people as the key to being able to deliver stellar results, project after project.”

“The contribution these companies provide to Canada cannot be overstated. Every year, Best Managed winners are raising the bar of excellence in Canadian business,” said Peter Brown, Partner, Deloitte Private and Co-Leader, Canada’s Best Managed Companies program.

2019 winners of the Canada’s Best Managed Companies award were honoured at the annual Canada’s Best Managed Companies gala in Toronto on April 17, 2019. On the same date, the Best Managed symposium will address leading-edge business issues that are key to the success of today’s business leaders.

The Best Managed program is sponsored by Deloitte Private, CIBC, Canadian Business, Smith School of Business, and TMX Group.

Canada’s Best Managed Companies continues to be the mark of excellence for Canadian-owned and managed companies with revenues over $15 million. Every year since the launch of the program in 1993, hundreds of entrepreneurial companies have competed for this designation in a rigorous and independent process that evaluates their management skills and practices.

The awards are granted on four levels:

1) Canada’s Best Managed Companies new winner (one of the new winners selected each year);
2) Canada’s Best Managed Companies winner (award recipients that have re-applied and successfully retained their Best Managed designation for two additional years, subject to annual operational and financial review);
3) Gold Standard winner (after three consecutive years of maintaining their Best Managed status, these winners have demonstrated their commitment to the program and successfully retained their award for 4-6 consecutive years);
4) Platinum Club member (winners that have maintained their Best Managed status for seven years or more). Program sponsors are Deloitte Private, CIBC, Canadian Business, Smith School of Business, and TMX Group.

For more information, visit

NASTT South Central Chapter Trenchless Technology Conference

The South Central Chapter of the North American Society of Trenchless Technology (NASTT) held it’s third annual Trenchless Technology Conference (TTC) in late September, taking place for the first time at Oklahoma State University (OSU) in Stillwater, OK. OSU is home to one of two NASTT student chapters within the Oklahoma and Texas region.


The event had presentations by many industry experts on topics such as record-breaking Direct Pipe Installations, HDD drilling in hard rock, culvert replacement via pipe-bursting, and also a presentation on Annular Pressure calculation models for HDDs by CCI’s own Justin Taylor (who is currently an active member on the South Central Chapter’s Board). The conference also included exhibitions by many industry leading contractors and equipment suppliers, including an immersive virtual reality experience on HDD drilling from Ditch Witch.


The audience was comprised of contractors, consultants, and municipal project managers and engineers from throughout Oklahoma and Texas. CCI was happy to participate in this opportunity to educate current and future clients and colleagues on current trends and the future of the industry. This conference engaged attendees in discussion on how improvements to the design of trenchless projects can benefit all parties involved and ensure that they can be completed with minimal risk to the environment and to the success of the project overall. We look forward to seeing everyone again next year at the fourth annual TTC, which will be held at the University of Texas, Arlington in 2019.

2018 International Pipeline Expo

Meet a few of our industry experts at the 2018 International Pipeline Expo at the Telus Convention Centre on September 25 – 27 in Calgary, Alberta!

International Pipeline Exposition brings together thousands of leading professionals to explore a showcase of over 250 of the industry’s most recognized brands and the latest pipeline technologies, products, and services.

Stop by and visit us at booth 531 to find out more about our 360 degree approach to every project.

See you there!

The Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer

Once again, CCI Inc has sponsored the Midwest Pipeline Inc team to participate in the 2018 Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer August 18-19, 2018. This two day, 200 km cycling journey that will benefit 17 centers across the province of Alberta in their crusade and battle against cancer.  In fact, cancer is the leading cause of death in Canada and is responsible for 30 percent of all deaths.

Since 2009, the “Ride to Conquer Cancer” has raised over $60 million for the Alberta Cancer Foundation (ACF) and it is the largest fundraising event in Canada.  The funds raised enable the ACF to conduct quality cancer research, discover new therapies, conduct clinical trials and support cancer care programs across Alberta.

In order for this event to be a success and to be as meaningful as possible, CCI Inc and Midwest Pipelines Inc. are seeking support from local businesses and/or partners to help raise funds for those individuals and families that are impacted by cancer.  Should you choose to partner with us to help find a cure for cancer, a disease that will affect 1 in 2 Canadians in their lifetime, Midwest will be pleased to acknowledge your company.  By partnering with us, your company logo will be advertised by our team throughout the event where over 1,500 individuals join in on the ride.

Over the past three years, the Midwest Pipelines Inc. team has raised over $128,000. Their goal this year is to raise $50,000, hopefully putting them in the running for one of the Top Ten fundraising teams at this year’s 10th Anniversary Ride.

Please help us make a difference in the lives of thousands of Albertans that currently depend on cancer research and funding.  Any assistance you can provide in this area would be greatly appreciated. We graciously thank you in advance for your support.

For more information or to donate, visit

CCI & Associates Attend NASTT No-Dig Show

CCI & Associates Attend NASTT No-Dig Show

Last month, CCI & Associates attended the 2018 North American Society of Trenchless Technology (NASTT) No-Dig Show in Palms Springs, California. No-Dig is the largest trenchless technology conference in North America, bringing together professionals across the spectrum of the industry to network, educate and promote the trenchless message to attendees who include; public works, contractors, engineers, utility owners, damage prevention and industrial facility personnel. With over 190 exhibitors and more than 2,200 attendees, CCI & Associates made their mark on this year’s massive show by participating as an exhibitor as well as presenting a technical paper on geotechnical issues.

Our very own Sam Wilson, Trenchless Manager, presented a technical paper outlining his findings on the auger boring method used during a railway crossing. Sam’s presentation examined the root causes of settlement and sinkhole development experienced on a 5 m high railway embankment, resulting from a guided slip bore installation of a 42-inch casing pipe. Hundreds of industry professionals were on hand to benefit from lessons learned from this best practice around of auger boring and its benefit to the drilling industry such as cost effectiveness and time efficiency. Sam concluded that a good understanding of soil conditions where auger boring is to be carried out is essential while designing these projects.

Also, during the conference, the CCI team identified a new trend in the industry regarding annular pressure (AP) technology. There were numerous presentations given by universities and industry competitors about the technology CCI has been using for the past 10 years and specifically, improving over the past 5 years. This new industry trend is good news for CCI as more clients will begin to recognize the value our AP technology can offer.

All in all, a very successful conference!

2017 Canada’s Best Managed Companies

CCI Inc. has done it again!

2017 marks another year CCI Inc. has earned the honor as one of Canada’s Best Managed Companies.

For five consecutive years, CCI Inc. has been awarded the prestigious designation and proudly stands alongside hundreds of other Canadian-owned companies in various industries celebrating business excellence.

Each year hundreds of entrepreneurial companies go through a rigorous application process, but only the best is awarded with the prestigious designation. Winners demonstrate sustained and exceptional business performance in four key categories:

CCI Inc. has surpassed all these qualifications year after year and has been successful in retaining their award which makes them a Gold Standard winner! We are incredibly proud to continue to lead the HDD industry as one of Canada’s Best Managed Companies.

Congratulations to all CCI Inc. employees and contractors who work diligently to make this award possible each year!

World Pipelines HDD Discussion

Pushing boundaries to protect water

Northern Courier’s remarkable construction

Now, more than ever, the way pipelines are built around rivers, lakes and other important water bodies is something people care a lot about. So keeping northern Alberta’s biggest and longest river safe with challenges, such as steep banks, sensitive ecology and a harsh climate, was of utmost importance to the engineers working on TransCanada’s recently completed Northern Courier Pipeline Project.

The team had to think creatively and put the latest technology and pipeline construction innovations to work on the 90-kilometre (56-mile) project, which officially received product and began operations in late January 2018.

“The Athabasca River is a protected area and by doing an HDD we were able to stay out of that protected area,” said Tim Smith, pipeline project manager, Northern Courier Pipeline Project.

Challenging sections to overcome

The pipeline project had some particularly challenging sections along its route, including eight major crossings under large water bodies and busy roads. In order to complete these crossings safely and with minimal impact to the environment, additional planning and thought was required to determine the best approach.

While the team didn’t set out to break any records, their work received international recognition for their use of “trenchless” crossing techniques that allow pipe to be installed underground with minimal impact to surface resources.

“A horizontal directional drill (HDD) provides the benefit of being able to go underground without disturbing sensitive areas,” says Smith. “In this particular case the Athabasca River is a protected area, environmentally, and by doing an HDD we were able to stay out of that protected area and minimize our impact on the environment.”

Longest 42-inch-wide HDD completed in North America

The HDD project completed under the Athabasca River turned out to be the longest 42-inch-wide HDD completed in North America to date at 2,195 metres (7,200 feet), in order to install the pipeline 70 metres below the riverbed. HDD is a technique that TransCanada frequently uses for major water crossings because it avoids in-stream work during construction and places the pipe below the riverbed.

Along with our contractors Michels and CCI Inc., the Northern Courier team’s Athabasca River crossing was awarded the 2016 Project of the Year by the North American Society for Trenchless Technology(Northwest Chapter), a society dedicated to promoting the benefits of trenchless technology for public awareness through education, training and research.

“This was a high honour in the world of trenchless crossing technology,” Smith said. “It meant a lot to those of us who work day in and day out to install pipelines in a way that minimizes the environmental impact while delivering the energy products our society needs.”

2017 Northwest Trenchless Project of the Year

Congratulations to the Pembina Pipeline Corporation and CCI Inc. on being awarded the 2017 Northwest Trenchless Project of the Year for the Athabasca River Parallel HDD Installations Project!

Pembina Pipeline Corporation (Pembina) proposed the design and construction of the Phase III Expansion, which follows and expands segments of Pembina’s existing pipeline systems from Taylor, British Columbia to Edmonton, Alberta. The core of the Phase III Expansion Project was the Fox Creek to Namao (FCN) construction which involved the installation of parallel NPS 16 (406.4 mm) and NPS 24 (609.6 mm) pipelines within a shared right-of-way (ROW). Both new pipelines were design to transport high vapour pressure (HVP) products, and increased transport capacity by 170,000 bpd and 500,000 bpd, respectively. With the parallel installations complete and placed into service on June 16, 2017, Pembina now has four (4) pipelines within the Fox Creek to Namao corridor which allow them to transport four (4) distinct hydrocarbon products (propane-plus, ethane-plus, condensate, and crude oil) within segregated pipelines.

The new parallel installations are 286 km long and transport products from Fox Creek to existing processing facilities in the Edmonton, Red Water, and Fort Saskatchewan areas. Within the acquired ROW, the two (2) pipelines crossed numerous watercourses, roads, and surficial features. CCI Inc. (CCI) was engaged by Pembina in 2014 and worked closely with our client through to the end of construction in 2017. Construction of the horizontal directionally drilled (HDD) crossings began in August of 2016 and was completed in April 2017. CCI’s scope of work included 68 detailed crossing designs at 34 crossing locations, including stress analysis, annular pressure modelling, feasibility assessments, and risk assessments. Along with engineering, CCI completed geotechnical investigations at a majority of the crossing locations and at all of the major watercourse crossings. Throughout the duration of the HDD design and construction, CCI provided contract support, assisting with the tender process, contractor negotiations, clarifications, and award. During HDD construction, CCI assisted with cost tracking for the HDD activities and provided knowledgeable HDD Inspectors to act as the Client Representative on site for the duration of HDD activities.

One of the most difficult major crossing locations on the FCN project was the Athabasca River, located approximately 8 km north of Whitecourt, Alberta. The NPS 24 and NPS 16 crossings of the Athabasca River were 1,552 m and 1,462 m in length, and required finished borehole diameters of 24” and 36”, respectively.

An extensive geotechnical program was completed at the crossing, with seven (7) boreholes completed along the crossing alignment. These boreholes identified surficial materials of sand, clay, clay (till), and gravel. The gravel identified was extensive, on both the north upland (exit location) and within the valley bottom to the south (entry location). The two (2) boreholes on the north upland identified a significant difference in the thickness of the gravel layer, prompting the completion of an additional geophysical program which utilized electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) in an attempt to define the gravel layer and assist with determining the ideal exit location and the requirements for surficial casing during construction. Bedrock at the crossing location consisted primarily of mudstone and sandstone, with some if it described as fractured and water bearing at or above rig elevation. Utilizing this geotechnical date, CCI’s geotechnical department created a no drill zone (NDZ) which provided a minimum 37 m of cover beneath the lowest point in the river channel thalweg, putting the drill at least 15 m into competent bedrock. The NDZ also maintained the drill at or below 640 m geodetic elevation as it passed beneath the current river channels and the active flood plain.

Final detailed HDD designs included 35 m of NPS 48 (1219.2 mm) and NPS 36 (914.4 mm) casing on entry and 50 m of casing at the exit locations. Both crossings followed similar drill paths and utilized moderately high entry (18°) and exit (16°) angles (based on industry standards) to reduce the length of casing required. The NPS 24 installation was designed 3 m deeper than the NPS 16, and extended 50 m longer than the NPS 16 on entry and exit to accommodate equipment layout and drilling operations to occur concurrently within a shared workspace. The drills were offset horizontally to meet Pembina’s specification for minimum separation requirements, allow for adequate steering tolerances, and minimize the risk of fluid communication between the drills. The geometry of the drills included approximately 80 m of elevation gain from entry to exit, and 120 m of total elevation change from the bottom tangent to the exit location.

Both drills were designed utilizing intersect methodology due to the casing requirements at entry and exit. Annular pressure analysis was run from both the entry and exit locations, and it was identified that expected downhole drilling pressures during the pilot holes quickly exceeded the strength of the overburden formation when drilling from the exit location due to the large elevation change in the topography. Due to this, the intersects were planned within the exit tangent of the drills, with a large portion of the pilot hole being completed from the lower entry side.

Pipe section layout utilized additional workspace to facilitate the layout of both the pipelines, travel, and required pipe support equipment. The NPS 24 utilized two (2) pipe sections, which required a stoppage during pipe pullback operations to complete the closure weld, inspection, and coating. Due to the high exit angle of both drills, additional support equipment was necessary for the safe support of the sections, which reached a maximum height of 9 m within the overbend.

The planned construction schedule included very aggressive timelines due primarily to environmental requirements which restricted access and construction to a set operational window. The schedule involved four (4) rigs to be mobilized and utilized for drilling operations of the NPS 16 and NPS 24 pipelines concurrently. Direct Horizontal Drilling (DHD) was contracted by Pembina to complete the construction of the HDD crossings, including casing installation and extraction. Mobilization to the prepared work pads began in August 2016. Entry and exit rig spreads were setup simultaneously with two (2) full spreads, including mud cleaning and recycling equipment. Specifications for the rigs utilized can be found below.

NPS 16 Entry / NPS 24 Entry
• Pullforce – 1,100,000 lb·f
• Rotary Torque – 100,000 ft-lbs
• Pump Capacity – 6 cm/min

NPS 16 Exit / NPS 24 Exit
• Pullforce – 440,000 lb·f
• Rotary Torque – 60,000 ft-lbs
• Pump Capacity – 5 cm/min

Surface casing (NPS 48 and NPS 36) was successfully installed on entry to 29 m, where a competent formation was encountered, slightly shorter than the proposed 35 m. On exit, NPS 60 and NPS 48 casing were installed, sized up from the required minimum diameter to allow for the use of telescoping in the event the casing could not be installed to the required depth without employing this methodology. Exit casing was initially installed to lengths of 66 m and 64 m, exceeding the recommended 50 m due to the variance in the gravel formation on exit.

The NPS 24 drilling activities began prior to the NPS 16, and the 12 ¼” pilot was completed with minimal problems. There were delays when the entry rig had to wait for exit casing installation to be completed so the intersect could be attempted. Once exit casing was complete the exit rig drilled to 166 m, where it intersected the entry pilot in 5 hours. The first ream pass enlarged the borehole to 24”, leaving a plug at exit to ensure borehole stability, followed by a 36” final ream. During the 36” ream the borehole started to produce water at 5m3/hr, and the rig was shut down for a period due to warm conditions, rain, and access restrictions caused by the sloppy conditions. After a final wiper pass, pipe pull was successfully completed with a maximum pullforce of 115,000 lbs·f, indicating a clean borehole free of cuttings.

The NPS 16 drilling began and encountered fluid losses to the parallel bore at approximately 540 m MD from entry. Once the intersect was completed, the bore began producing water to the entry location at a variable rate from 5-7 m3/hr for the duration of the drill. The shutdown due to weather conditions occurred during pilot immediately after completing the intersect, and resulted in high rotary and stuck drill string. Multiple mitigation strategies were employed to retrieve the string, drilling a second pilot hole parallel to the stuck pipe from exit, use of a downhole hammer on the drill pipe, and using hydraulic casing jacks. After 10 days of attempting to retrieve the stuck drill pipe, it was determined that the string was unrecoverable and both rigs rotated out of the drill string, retrieving approximately 590 m of drill pipe on entry and 170 m of drill pipe on exit, abandoning the remaining drill pipe in the hole. A packer was set from entry and grout was injected into the abandoned hole from the exit location in an attempt to stop the water flow. Due to the amount of drill pipe retrieved, the existing entry and exit casing were still able to be utilized for the second attempt at pilot hole. Both the entry and exit redrills were successful in side-tracking out of the existing hole once outside the casing. After the second successful intersect, issues arose when attempting to trip both bits out to exit, after discussion it was determined that collapsed cobbles at the end of the casing were resulting in deflecting the bottom hole assembly (BHA) outside of the casing. Additional casing was installed on exit from 64 m to 68 m, and the BHA was successfully pushed out to exit and reaming operations commenced.

DHD began forward reaming 24” to approximately 500 m when the rotary torque increased significantly and the exit rig twisted off the reamer. Both rigs tripped to surface with the exit rig retrieving the tail string with a failure just beneath a tool joint and the entry rig successfully retrieving the reamer. The BHA was tripped across the hole to exit and encountered problems getting into the exit casing again, additional casing was installed to 87 m and additional attempts to push out the bit to exit were made. At this time, due to extreme weather conditions, bans were in place on the access roads preventing heavy loads and limiting vacuum trucks and drill pipe loads. Consideration was given to tripping the exit BHA to entry however; the road bans prevented mobilizing drill pipe and managing fluid returns to entry. After 3 days and multiple attempts to get the entry BHA out of the exit casing, road bans were lifted, allowing the Contractor to mobilize drill pipe from exit to entry to trip the BHA in from the exit to entry, and bits are quickly tripped through the borehole and successfully pushed out on entry. The 24” ream was quickly completed, along with a successful wiper pass. After multiple construction issues and mitigation strategies, failures and successes, the NPS 16 pipeline was installed with no issues during pullback operations and a maximum pullforce of 98,300 lbs·f.

Entry casings for both the NPS 16 and NPS 24 drills were successfully removed, exit casing removal attempts were unsuccessful and drills were cemented at entry and exit to restrict production of water from hole and to seal the exit casing abandoned in the hole.

We would like to thank the entire project team for combining their efforts and utilizing their experience and expertise, resulting in the successful installation of both the NPS 24 and NPS 16 HDD’s.

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