Company overcomes major obstacles to complete lengthy interstate drill

HOUSTON – A private drilling company in Louisiana said this week it has drilled a 2.1-mile horizontal length under the Sabine River and across the Texas-Louisiana border.

The 11,065-foot span is raising speculation that it was the longest horizontal length that ever has been drilled on land and under a river, one of the biggest obstacles Mother Nature can throw at a pipeline drill.

Last year, Louisiana-based horizontal driller Ranger Field Service burrowed for a 12-inch gas pipeline, one segment of a 139-mile pipe that extends from Liberty, Texas to Eunice, Louisiana.

That piece of the pipeline had to run under the Sabine River because federal regulators did not give the owner, Crosstex Energy, permission to build it over the region’s wetlands 115 miles east of Houston, said Boyd Simon, a vice president at Ranger Field Services.

“They took a chance, and we did, too,” Simon said, adding the drill had only minor problems. “A lot of money can be lost really fast if you’re not careful drilling and a pipe twists off. You could lose half a million dollars in just a heartbeat with just the tools that are downhole.”

A Transocean rig off the coast of Qatar holds the world record with its nearly 7-mile horizontal segment, according to the International Association of Drilling Contractors and the Guinness Book of World Records. But it’s unclear who can claim the longest sideways distance on U.S. soil.

The industry doesn’t keep track of record horizontal lengths, but Simon says his company’s drill beat the most recent land record — a 10,900-foot length running sideways under Lake Houston. That pipe was completed by Humble, Texas-based Laney Directional Drilling two years ago. Laney officials, who made the original claim to the land record, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Simon said Ranger Field’s claim to the record is based on independent research from a doctoral candidate who is studying lateral lengths and other infrastructure. The student declined to comment.

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