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Michels bringing trenchless solutions down under

Founded in the Midwestern United States in 1959 as a regional natural gas distribution company, Michels quickly expanded its services to meet the evolving needs of established and new customers. 

In 1988, Michels entered the horizontal directional drilling (HDD) market, offering a safe, environmentally sound way to install utility lines in areas where traditional open-trench construction would not be practical or feasible.

Keeping with Michlels’ spirit for innovation, the trenchless team has grown and advanced with the industry, building a reputation for completing some of the world’s most challenging, significant installations and for continuing to expand the capabilities of its team and custom designed and fabricated equipment. Michels has completed more than 225 pilot-hole intersect HDD projects, drills in excess of 4700 metres, and become one of the world’s most experienced direct pipe contractors. 

In 2021, Michels completed a 4702 metre installation of an NPS-24 steel utility line, the likes of which had not previously been attempted at the 24-inch diameter in the world. Previously, Lake Sakakawea on the Missouri River in North Dakota had limited the ability to transport natural gas takeaway from the Bakken Formation in northwest North Dakota to pipeline interconnects to the southeast. As a result, the existing infrastructure was not sufficient to meet transportation needs for the natural gas produced during the crude oil extraction process.

Faced with costly and inefficient options of building hundreds of kilometres of pipeline around Lake Sakakawea or transporting liquid natural gas around the lake in tanker trucks, much of the natural gas was safely burned as a flare to prevent release of hydrocarbons directly into the atmosphere. 

Already transporting half of the natural gas produced in the Bakken region, WBI Energy, Inc. (WBI), a subsidiary of MDU Resources Group, Inc., contracted Michels 2021 to build the transmission pipeline and trenchless segments of its North Bakken Expansion Project. HDD was chosen as the most viable, yet still very challenging, method for the installation. 

Michels put its team to work studying the project and developing multiple plans to achieve the highest possibility for success with the most minimal chances for injuries or environmental issues.

After about a month, reading was completed, and the hole was prepared to receive the long street of 24-inch pipe to seal the project. After two days, the pullback was successfully completed and Michels had, once again, proven the lengths can be pushed further than previously been done, contributing to the future of the trenchless industry.

Michels Asia Pacific is selectively specialising in technically challenging trenchless installations in Australia to allow customers to provide reliable, unobtrusive service in metropolitan and remote areas. The team consists of Wangaratta-based project management and field staff supported by industry experts at our international headquarters in Brownsville, WI, USA. 

“Geographical distance aside, we see many similarities between the people, the values, the goals, and the commitment to safety and innovation shared by our home base and Australia,” says Matt Smith, Vice President, Michels Trenchless. “We look forward to working together to build the future of Australia’s infrastructure.”

For more information visit Michels

This article featured in the June edition of Trenchless Australasia. 

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