Comparative analysis of horizontal directional drilling pipeline practices in China vs. United States

Maureen Carlin, Samuel Ariaratnam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) has played a critical role in infrastructure development by providing an economical, practical and environmentally responsible way to install new, buried pipeline systems. The versatility of HDD enables installations in various strata including mountainous terrains, extensive farmland and crossings of water bodies. China and the U.S. currently are leaders in pipeline installations due to numerous major energy projects. This paper examines those practices being used in China in order to compare those to standard practices in the U.S. in order to gain insight into similarities and differences. Notable differences including Field data was collected on several HDD pipeline projects in both China and the U.S. Differences and similarities in site considerations, manpower and labor conditions, and equipment usage were studied. It was found that extensive geotechnical investigations are performed prior to design and construction of HDD pipeline projects in China and the U.S. In the U.S., designs are most often based on meeting minimum design parameters, while in China, analysis is taken one step further and includes advanced simulation models and graphing of all installation stages. Labor sourcing in China somewhat more complicated compared to the U.S. It is a common practice to employ significantly more workers than actually required. This is a standard practice that is recognized on a national level in order to employ more people from China's 1.3 billion population. Working hours in China are twenty-four hours per day, seven days per week broken into two twelve-hour shifts per day. In the U.S., wages are typically paid to workers on a weekly basis. Many HDD pipeline projects have work hours of 12 h per day, five to six days per week with overtime paid at a rate of 1.5–2 times base hourly rate for each hour over 40 per week. Much can be learned by understanding the differences and similarities between Chinese and U.S. HDD pipeline contractors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)174-188
Number of pages15
JournalTunnelling and Underground Space Technology
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018


  • Comparison
  • Horizontal directional drilling
  • Pipelines

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Building and Construction
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology


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