Drilling deep under the Red River

This article was published in May 2023 and may be outdated.

Providing Energy for Life means going to great lengths to serve our customers with the energy they need, now and into the future. Sometimes that means coming up with innovative solutions, like drilling nearly 37 metres below a riverbed. Read on and watch the video below to learn how Andrew Greaves and his team navigated a tricky situation to provide Energy for Life for our customers.

In the summer of 2021 when water levels were low, a four-inch transmission pressure natural gas main was found to be partially exposed in the Red River in between Letellier and Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation.

Although the pipeline had not failed, did not cause any environmental damage to the area, and was quickly isolated, it would need to be replaced and relocated to ensure safe and reliable operation moving forward.

The resulting project would involve some of the longest and deepest drill work in Manitoba Hydro history.

The directional drill entered on the east side of the Red River and exited on the west side, with the drill path passing 37 metres below the base of the river. To accommodate such depth, the drill length had to be nearly one kilometre long (775 m). Once the drill rods had reached the west side, it latched on to the already welded string of pipe and pulled it back under the river into place.

While it’s a quick process to explain, it takes weeks of preparation and drilling to safely and accurately install, and a few days to pull the pipe back through.

The project involved engagement with Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation (RRAFN) given that much of the work happened adjacent to the community’s land. Before the project broke ground, it received the blessing of the community’s council. Throughout the project, a dedicated community liaison from RRAFN communicated with nearby residents to make sure they were comfortable with the work as it went along.

Why did we drill so deep and far?

The pipe was exposed in summer 2021 because the riverbank surrounding the pipe slid into the river, forcing the pipe to buckle upwards and emerge from the riverbed.

The new pipe was relocated to take advantage of bank stabilization work that was already completed by Manitoba Transportation and Infrastructure for the nearby bridge.

New advances in drilling technology allowed us to drill so deep. Drilling deeper enables us to avoid the geo-technically unstable area and will allow the pipe to safely remain in service for many years to come.

The replaced pipe provides natural gas to the homes and businesses in Letellier and many neighbouring southern Manitoba communities.