Safar Mohammad Khan, General Manager- HDD, Apollo Techno Industries
Safar Mohammad Khan, General Manager- HDD, Apollo Techno Industries

India’s economic growth is closely associated to its energy demand; in fact, India is the 3rd largest energy consumer in the world. A robust growth is expected in the country’s oil and gas sector, which will make the sector even more attractive for investment and also enhance its role in influencing decisions for growing the Indian economy.

Natural gas remains the fuel of choice because of its low emission of particulate matter, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and cleaner burning. The per capita consumption of natural gas in India is only ~29 standard cubic meters (SCM) vis-a-vis the world average of 363 SCM. The government has time and again shown its commitment to increasing the gas share in India’s primary energy mix from the current 6.2% to 15% by 2030 and has been supporting various policy directives and regulatory changes to reach the goal.

Building a Gas Based Economy Through Trenchless Technology – HDD Machines

City Gas Pipeline Infrastructure Development Program (PNGRB/MOH/MOP&NG)
Infrastructure development has also been a major focus area with gas pipeline grid being established across the country and at various stages of completion. In February 2021, PM Narendra Modi announced that the Government plans to invest Rs. 7.5 trillion on oil and gas infrastructure in the next five years. About 35,000 km of a natural gas pipeline network across the country has been authorized with the aim to create a national gas grid. About 20,238 km of natural gas pipelines are already operational (as of September 2021) and 14,930 km are under development.

City Gas Distribution (CGD-PNGRB, MOH, GOI)
The CGD aims at promoting green fuel (natural gas) like piped natural gas (PNG) for households and industries (for domestic or industrial consumption) and also compressed natural gas (CNG), which is used as fuel for vehicles. PNGRB launched the 10th CGD bidding round on 6th Nov 2018 for development of a City Gas Distribution (CGD) network for 50 geographical areas (GAs) which includes 124 districts spread over 14 states and union territories in India. In the 11th bidding round, PNGRB successfully conducted bidding for the next 65 GAs (as on Sept 17, 2021) for 19 states and 1 UT which will cover 215 more cities in India.

Gas pipeline infra has been developed for 339 cities in Indian states. After the completion of gas pipeline projects (of 6”to 24” dia), they will cover 86% of the total area to cater to 93% of the country’s population.

Gas Pipeline Projects Awarded
Major companies that have bagged a gas license in the 11th CGD bidding (conducted by the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB) for 65 GAs across the country) include infrastructure company MEIL, which has bagged 15 CGD projects across nine states.

Corrtech International, NRP Projects, JSIW, KTPL, ACE Energy, Spur Infra, KEC, Bluegrass Technologies, Trenchless Engineering, Mansi Ganga, Nandani Impex, Mega Engineering, L&T, Likhita, Krita Engineering Worli are the major EPC pipeline contractors which are proactively taking up assignments for developing the gas pipeline infrastructure. New contractors will also find opportunities to participate in the pipeline infra development projects.

Winners of CNG/PNG license in 11th bidding conducted by PNGRB:
  • Megha Engineering 15 GA
  • Adani & Adani Ventures 14 GA
  • IOCL 9 GA
  • BPCL 6 GA\
  • Assam Gas Co.3 GA
  • Dinesh Engineers 4 GA
  • HPCL 1 GA
  • GAIL 1 GA
  • Think Gas 1 GA
  • IRM Energy 1 GA
  • IGL 1 GA
  • Sholagasco 1 GA
The above companies have to develop the main pipeline to the distribution pipeline interlinked from refineries to the cities and up to the households. PNG/CNG operation activities will take place after setting up the gas grid substation and CNG pumps. They will cover 339 cities (declared at the 11th bidding) which will be networked with CS/MDPE pipelines across all the states.

Building a Gas Based Economy Through Trenchless Technology – HDD MachinesThe A3000 is suitable for cross-country pipeline work. The 160-ton HDD rig has a high torque of 77012 NM (making it outstanding for high dia pipeline installations in rock as well as in normal soil), beside safety features and advanced control systems.

Demand for HDD machines
Leading EPC pipeline contractors will be developing the pipeline infrastructure for more than 400 cities across India. Many gas companies are now working to build gas pipeline infrastructure beneath the soil using the HDD method or open trenching (traditional method). PNG and CNG pipes will be laid parallelly beneath the soil up to 20 meters with an average depth of 1.85 m to 20 meters. About 88,000 crore will be invested in developing the pipeline infrastructure.

In view of the tremendous workflow that has come for laying gas pipelines for developing the PNG/CNG infrastructure across India, demand for HDD machines is at an all-time high. HDD machines are powerful with high torque, and are supported by equipment like adequate hydraulic pressure, high rotation, high grade mud motor, rock reamers and a high flow-high pressure mud pump – all of which are required for drilling rock and for successful execution within the projected timeline.

Apollo’s A1000 (50 ton), A1200 (65 Ton), A1500 (96 ton), A2000 (120 ton), A3000 (160 ton) could be the choicest equipment options in the market where HDD job is granted with successful execution (especially in rocky geologies), as world-class specifications have been followed and fitted in the machines, along with advanced safety features.

Apollo’s A1200 is a powerful HDD machine which is being used in the Indian and Middle East markets. Equipped with world-class specifications, the machine is fast, reliable, and even capable of drilling in Bhopal’s red rock geology where the hardness is more than 250 MPA.

A unit of A1200 is being used by sub-contractor Vision Infrastructure, contractor Ace Energy, and client Think Gas for laying an 8” and a 5” CS/MDPE gas pipeline in front of ISBT, Bhopal. The machine’s 800 LPM big mud pump @800 PSI Pressure generates high torque for efficient rock drilling. Joystick control and a 6000 PSI operated hydraulic pump along with 6000 PSI rotation in the A1200 makes this model highly efficient.

To make pipeline installations successful, contractors must follow all the HDD processes and specifications, employ a trained driller and tracker, use a quality mud motor, and make all the site preparations on time.

Another powerful machine is the Apollo A2000 – a 120 ton HDD machine with CAT C9.3 engine and torque of 39477 NM, and an inbuilt pump of 200 GPM. Its high thrust and torque and the large size rig is designed for bigger jobs, specially in rocky areas. This model can be called ‘Rock Master’ for its superior rock cutting ability. A2000 is working in Kerela for a 16” plus 2” steel pipeline. Contractor: PAN Asian Builders, Client: IOCL

Horizontal directional drilling (HDD) is one of the most specialized, trenchless methods for installing underground conduits with minimal damage to the surrounding ecosystem. Demand for well-organized rigs in HDD projects for distant pipeline installations is propelling growth of this segment. With the growing need for infrastructure development (CGD gas pipelines) along with environment protection, trenchless technology is going to be in demand. With many projects being announced, demand is at an all-time high of almost 500% now and is likely to be higher in the near future.
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