Saturday, May 31, 2008

Horizontal Directional Drilling

Remember Datuk Lat's cartoon depicting an official officiating the opening up of a newly paved road? No sooner had the offcial opening being performed the other utility companies was depicted digging the road again to lay up their pipes and what not. That cartoon depicted the coordination between government departments at its worst. Many of us had sometime or other experienced such incidences or seen it happened at least once in our life time.

I was fortunate to notice not just once but twice that technology was applied to overcome such necessity to dig up roads in order to lay pipes for such utilites as telecomunication cables and power cables across a busy roads. The use of technology has prevented the scarring of paved road or at least keep it to a minimum. Traffic disruptions were minimised too.

The use of the Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) machine has helped to overcome such unnecessary occurences. HDD is not unlike a Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) but on a much smaller scale. TBM was used mainly to build the underground PUTRA LRT lines and also the famous not so SMART Tunnel which was supposed to be used as vehicle passageway as well as for flood mitigation in KL. It is the use for the later that seems to be the failure of the smart tunnel.

The Horizontal Directional Machine in Pasir Mas.

It was in Kota Bharu on the day that Tesco Kota Bharu was officially opened that I first sighted the HDD machine in action. So this nosy inquisitive citizen reporter immediately snapped away pictures to show his blogger friends how a HDD machine look like and try to explain in general in layman's language how the machine works. Pak Adib being an ex District JKR engineer must have wished that such machines were available during his time.

The HDD machine in Kota Bharu
The width of the road to be drilled viewed from the starting point.

The HDPE pipes to be used as the conduits.

Only a small section needed to be excavated to a depth of approximately a metre. From here the auger bit is placed toward the direction where the point of the conduit is supposed to reach. The distance can be anywhere between 10 to 300 metres. Mr. Chin Lai Kee the Managing Director of KM Drilling whose company is based in Hulu Yam Selangor said that his longest job so far was a 300 meter length. I met Kee when he was doing a 50 meter job for Telekom Malaysia in Pasir Mas, Kelantan. Even as MD of the company, he is on the ground supervising the work. This is a typical nature of a successful man who rises from the bottom through sheer hard work.
Mr. Chin Lai Kee the MD for KM Drilling. He operates the nachine himself.

Mr. Chin putting the HDD machine in position

The length to be drilled in Pasir Mas seen from the exit pit.

The auger bit can be extended by extension rods of about 3 meters each until the point on the other side is reached. The beauty of the system is, it doesn't produce much spoils (waste soils) that need to be transported out. The boring head during its turning in the hole created, only compact the soil around it making it strong and thus does not collapse. It needs water to lubricate it and so water was introduced into the pit where the first entry is made. The auger bit will travel slightly downward until it reaceches the lowest point of its curvature at approximately 12 feet whereby it will begin its accecnt to reach its point of exit at another pit dug at the point of exit, some 4 fet below the surface level. Unfortunately I didn't get to learn how the auger bit was controlled to be so accurate in its direction. Hopefully an engineer among us (maybe Pak Adib) could enlighten us on this

The drilling being done in KB

The auger bit being pulled out

Washing the bit

Upon reaching the other end of the point I guess the bit will be hooked to a coupling attached to the end of the High Density Poly Ethylene (HDPE) pipe or even higher graded non metal or asbestos pipes that will be used as waterproofed conduit to carry the cables. The pipe which is of at least 4 in diameter will be pulled back through the drilled tunnel to surface at the entry point. If the tunnel bored is large enough, it should be able to accomodate a number of conduits. If I heard it right a 12 inch bore can accomodate up to 3 lengths of 4 inches HDPE pipes which is termed as 1 way. Each way will cost the utility company some RM600 per metre.

The end point is reached in Pasir Mas.

The steel coupling used to anchor the HDPE pipes to pull it

The HDPE pipes being aligned for the final placing in the drilled tunnel.

The pipes in its final position.

The beauty of the system is there is very little disruption to traffic as the equipment can work off the road shoulder if there is space. In the case of the Pasir Mas job, there wasn't space so they have to use part of the road to locate the HDD machine. With minimum excavation of the road surface, the scarring effect producing those uneven surface which later tend to sink lower than the road surface is minimised.

Cleaning up the spoils after the job was completed in Pasir Mas

At about the same time and nearer to my home I saw another group of workers trying to lay a pipe for a conduit for a high volatege cable under the road. Under the old system the obvious thing to do was to dig a trench. lay the pipe for the conduit, fill up and resurface the trench. Half of the road will be closed to traffic and being the main road between Pasir Mas to Kota Baru, traffic disruption will be massive. There was no possibilty of a deviation and so traffic will be reduced to a single lane with each direction alternating.

The width of the road the pipe has to be laid

The GI pipe was pushed halfway through

They didn't use any drilling machine for this job. Instead, they just use brute force from the hydraulic arm of a backhoe. A trench was constructed on one side of the road long enough to lay down a 4 inch diameter galvanized iron pipe of about 20 ft length. After fitting one end of the pipe with a steel cone with the sharp end acting as the penetrating head, the pipe is pushed with the arm of the backhoe with the bucket removed. The hydraulic force is so strong that the pipe was physically pushed through the soil to emerge in a hole constructed on the other side of the road. Since the road width was more than 30 feet wide, two lenghths of the GI pipes was used.

Human ingenuity and modern technology has saved road users from being inconvenienced by work being done to provide some utilities to the people. Being the simple person that I am, I feel amazed by technology however simple they are as long as it benefit society at large.
Should you need the use of a HDD machine one day please contact this company:

I hope I didn't bore you with this boring tale. If youhaven't got enough, read more here at the link searched by drizzter.


Gurindam Jiwa said...

There were these couple of guys who won the tender to build a tunnel connecting Johor Bahru and Singapore.

They won it because they offered the cheapest price. Cheapest because they use the simplest conventional primitive method: just two guys using the picks.

One guy would dig from Johor Bahru, another guy would dig from Singapore. They use two guys to expedite the process. No other tools are used, hence the huge reduction in cost.

Not only the production cheap, the method also may produce a surprise bonus. When asked what would happen if both guys were to start digging the wrong way, they answered, "Then you'll get TWO tunnels!"

Pok Zawi, your article can be rather long, and seem even longer with this particular blog template design. Sometimes I just scroll through quickly, only to get the glimpse that there was a China man from Hulu Yam who digs horizontally from Kota Bharu all the way to Pasir Mas without causing any traffic problems.

Have a nice weekend. :-)

louis said...

Hello Zawi,

I guess there were more exciting things for a tourist like me to do in KL at about 1:00 am, but I spent about an hour one night at that time watching the last section of monorail being placed at the corner of Jln Imbi and Sultan Ismail.

I just happened to be walking by on my way back to my hotel when I came across that activity. It was a terrific example of what you said about the wonders of technology when it's used to improve the quality of life.

cakapaje said...

Salam Pak Zawi,

That's one thing I like and respect about you: You have keen eyes and an inquisitive mind to pick stories which otherwise would have gone unnoticed by many. Were I there, I would not give a hoot as, well, a road drilling is road drilling-lah! But you manage to turn it into a good entry.

ps. Can I engage Mr Chin Lai Kee for an awfully big job? I find the need to bury the Sarkas people but do not want to disrupt the ordinary people life.

kbguy said...

HDD = Hard Disk Drive ???? haha..just kidding. I was reading until half way through.. i just scroll down and watch the photos..
I was wondering, you really get down to do the interview and snap the photos ? and even get the business card from Mr. Chin ? You are great Mr Zawi. I salute to you.. no wonder I notice you know so many people when we first met.
I'm just a lonely blogger...hehehe..

Zawi said...

You can always read the opening para, skip the middle para and read the final para and post a comment like you did. Since you comment is also about tunnels which I extremely enjoy reading, I am just too happy with it. I know technical subjects are very boring all the more so if it is about boring tunnels hahaha.
Point noted about the long article. I will change the format to make it look shorter since I feel long articles are time wasting. After all we don't have the luxury of time to spend on a single blog.
Yes, several tunnels across the Kelantan River will be most appreciated. Afterall the old tunnel boring machines are lying idle somewhere after completing their jobs in KL. Or don't we get to keep the machine after spending 2 billions on a project?

Zawi said...

There are seemingly mundane things that we tend to not to see but if we see them objectively, we should be appreciative of them. We are like minded and we appreciate such things. It matters not where you see it as such opportunies dont present themselves all the time. For people like us, there is so much in this world to see and appreciate.

Zawi said...

Wassalam. Thank you for the appreciation.
His call card is displayed in my blog. Just give him a call and I think he will be glad to give you a quote. I guess no job will be too small or too big for him. Burying these Sarkas people will be a breeze for him. I think he has ample experience that he can place in hiss dossier of past jobs.

Zawi said...

Just be friendly to people. Ask nicely and people will oblige. Most important is to ask relevant questions. Just show them that you are sincerely interested and they will proudly tell you about their job. A notebook in hand and a camera especially a DSLR will always bring out the eagerness for them to respond.
Don't salute me, just read my article hahahaha.

Akmal said...

You sure know how to make this cybersphere; your site, different than others. Your friendly nature never fail to amaze me :)
The mechanics of driller; any driller, I once tried to read in the net, but it is just way beyond what my mind can tolerate hahaha.
Technologies are developing beyond what we laymen can comprehend, ain't it? The work on the surface, we can understand, but the mechanics is what always amaze me.

Zawi said...

Technologyis so fast paced nowadays that it is beyond people like us to comprehend. Anyway all we need to do is how to use the technology for our benefit and leave the rest to technologist to think.
Only this morning I met Pak Adib in Kota Bharu who showed me how his GPS Garmin Nuvi 200 can be used to locate places like White House Kopitiam. He also helped to place Ridel Hotel in the system and to share the info with other Garmin users. At only RM1300 a piece this high tech gadget is indeed value for money. The same gadget could have cost about RM5000 or more some years back (I saw a similar gadget whenI was in Japan sometimes in 2001 and the functions was just limited to satelite map of a place).
Hebat betul Pak Adib kita ni.

pakpayne said...

:-) I learn new stuff after reading and looking at pictures in ur entry...especially i learned that
- An MD can still smile after a hard day's job.
- An MD on the ground is worth ten MDs on 35th floor reading reports!
- HDD is not only for Hard Disk Drive!
- That Pak Zawi has excellent journalist flair!

enjoy ur day!


Fauziah Ismail said...

Salam Pak Zawi
Your posting is called citizen journalism. This piece is educational.
Thank you for giving us an insight to civil engineering. We need more reports like this that use layman language for all to understand.

Nightwing said...

Pak Zawi,

I don;t think your posts will ever bore anyone.

Always learn some thing new...:)

keep it coming...:)

Zawi said...

After reading your comments I really learned something too.
- Pakpayne really read my post which seemed to be very boring to many people.
- Many MD's can't even smile after a hard days job
- Many MD's are rarely on the ground but prefer to read reports in their aircond rooms on the 35th floor.
- Pakpayne is very forgiving in with all the grammatical errors that I made and still consider myself as one who has a journalistic flair.
Thank you Pakpayne, you have made my day.

Zawi said...

Yes, citizen reporter is what I am. Those people often mistook me for a newspaper reporter and thinking that they were going to be featured in a mainstream media, they opened up to me like I am one.
Yes I really mean it to be educational as there is no limit for us to learn even if it is something beyond our scope.
Yes I use layman's language because it is the only language that I know hahahahaha.
I will continue writing such report as long as you continue to read them. Even if there is just one person who read and learn something from what I wrote I will feel all the effort is justified.

Zawi said...

Drilling is boring, like you are boring a well. I am glad if you find it interesting. I will be writing more for people like you. Don't you worry about that hehehehe.

mamadou said...

Assalamu'alaikum Ayoh Awi

Interesting post. Precise description of HDD operations in the language that everybody could understand. Very great. Wish you to continue with other technical or engineering subject and more people would understand its. If not its look like another monster in damaging our environment.

But Ayoh Awi I have seen some failure of this HDD's works. Not the technology but the method applied and its application or in other word is its technique. The flushing medium plays important role in drilling or boring. In sandy area, using just only water as flushing medium is not advisable. The failure likes road on top of bored pipe sinking after sometimes, an highway pavement sank after the the concrete jack-in culvert moved.

Anyway it is great that this technology now becomes common and affordable in our country.


drizzter said...

Now I know that HDD can mean other things such as horizontal directional rather than the typical harddisk drive ..

look at this in wikipedia ..

nice job pok zawi ..

Zawi said...

Once in a while I will attempt something techincal but always keeping to a language suitable for laymen. It is to provide variety as well as to gain some knowledge.
HDD machines will be useful if it is used in the right place for the rihgt job. I don't know if it will be useful r even possible to use in sandy soil as the tunnel wall may collapse. Unlike the tunnel boring machine, the wall is immediately reinforced with concrete.
Such machines if correctly used will reduce the damage to our present infrastructure and wont inconvenience the public as much as the conventional method of digging.
Are you an engineer yourself?

Zawi said...

This seems to be the first time I see your comment in my blog. Please welcome to my site.
tYaeh To computer users like us, HDD will always be hard disk drive.
Thank you for the search om Wikipedia. Now I will be able to know more about the machine. What I wrote was based solely on the observation and chat with the workers on site.
I will paste the URL on the blog itself for others to read more of the same.
Thank you drizzter.

drizzter said...

Dear pak zawi ..

wikipedia for me is a helpful tools for an engineer like me .. jargons used sometimes are very confusing due to the miscellaneous nature of engineering itself.

ps: ambo lama dah baca blog pakzawi ni .. cumo lanie jah baru nak post comments & menceburkan diri dale blogging ..

Zawi said...

Thanks to you now I have just signed up fo Wikipedia. Its the best way to look for informations. I will be writing with more depth and can afford to use the right terms when blogging in the future.
Thank you for reading my blogs. Hopefully you can find something useful from it.

pB said...

WOW ...

kulit baru laaaaa ....

bagus bagus bagus

Zawi said...

Akmal tolong buat kulit tu. Terpalsa tukar kerana Gurindam jiwa kata susah nak baca kerana terlalu panjang kebawah. Kena scroll j



lebawah bila nak baca.
Hope you like the new format.

Queen Of The House said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Queen Of The House said...

Pak Zawi .. I just returned from 3 days in KB. I think I did see this thing, or at least, I was in the area around TESCO (after tersesat jalan). KB town is huge ... we lost our way the moment we arrived - sesat around Pengkalan Chepa trying to find the New Pacific Hotel .... I thought I knew the way after reading your blog entry on Jalan Pengkalan Chepa, I think. And thereafter, each time we went out, we kept losing our way, taking the wrong turns, going in circles, haha. Nak pergi Bunut Payung sesat, nak pergi Grand Riverview Hotel the next day, sesat, nak ke mana-mana pun sesat! But I had a great time there and was amazed at the bustling activities.

Anyway ... with your inquisitive nature and reporting flair, maybe you should consider being a stringer for the papers :D

Zawi said...

I am sorry if my description was confusing and made you lose your way. If you invest in a GPS unit Garmin Nuvi 200 like Pak Adib is using, you wont lose your way again anywhere. It costs RM1300 and is very useful.
Losing your way around town would have brought you to places that you would not go to so consider that as the reward. I thought you should have seen some of the landmarks that I mentioned to guide you. Anyway its a good way to know Kota Bharu.
I am glad that you had a great time despite of losing your way around.
Me being a stringer? Let us see if anybdy is interested in a citizen reporter who just wrote in an English based on gut feeling and not on the basic grammar that is taught in school. Thanks for putting e in such a high esteem which I personally feel undeserving of me. Let me just continue to entertain you all with my blogs. If you feel happy clap your hands :).

wan said...

i thought they only apply this method of horizontal directional drilling to get the petroleum..
never knew they use for other stuff too..
great educational post!

Zawi said...

I believe this is your first comment on my blog. As such please allow me to welcome you.
I am not sure if such methodology is ever used in oil drilling as from what I know and presume vertical drilling is what they use in oil and gas.I am so happy that you find this post to be an educational one as it was meant to be.

Evangelin said...

Hello Mr.Chin Lai Kee and all,
It is good to know you here.I'd like to introduce myslef first.We are Shanghai Gudeng Construction Machinery Manufaturing Co.,Ltd.,which locates in Shanghai.We produce horizontal directional drill.Our website is If you are interested in it,please visit our website.We could produce all model of products acording to your requirements from 18 ton to 600 ton.So we wonder to know whether you want to buy new HDD rig recently.Our Products are low prices and high quality.
If you are interested in other machinery made in China,you could inform me as well.I could find it for you.

Looking forward to hearing from you soon.

Best regards.

Miss. Evangenlin
sale representive

Athrunxala said...

Those pictures are giving me a bad case of Deja Vu. I had a horizontal well dug for my house and my lawn looked just like the property in these pictures.

Anonymous said...

We are a manufacturer of Horizontal Directional Drilling Machines and concrete pumps. We can supply you the HDD machine with high quality, reasonable price and best after-sale services.

If you are interested in, please feel free to contact me for more information.

Hope your reply.

Vivian Fong
Sales Manager
Fax: (86)755-2918201019
Skype: janeyiren
Shenzhen Hongjian Machinery Co.,ltd

Find us on Facebook

Richard Demello said...

Thank you for sharing the knowledge on Directional drilling along with the images.

Daevan Def said...


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Shiv Shakti said...

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Sakshi said...

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