Drilling rig goes up in Houston

Michael Daniels, right, and Alton Hudson watch the kelly spin on a drilling rig across from the WIN Job Center on Monroe Street Thursday. The work was part of regular natural gas pipeline maintenance.

Michael Daniels, right, and Alton Hudson watch the kelly spin on a drilling rig across from the WIN Job Center on Monroe Street Thursday. The work was part of regular natural gas pipeline maintenance.

HOUSTON — Drilling crews were busy in downtown Houston last week but they weren’t drilling for oil, gas or even water.

A rig was erected on Monroe Street Wednesday to drill down 260 feet and install a cathode that will protect a large natural gas line in the area from corrosion.

“As soon as we leave and the grass starts growing you won’t even know we’ve been here,” said Michael Daniels, of Tom Griffith Drilling of Columbia. “We are replacing the old cathode equipment with new.”

The exact process is called cathodic protection and it is a technique used to control corrosion of a metal surface – in this case a natural gas pipeline. The process has an external direct current applied to the pipeline to protect from pitting and cracking.

A 10 to 20-volt charge will be put on this system.

Daniels said the drill hole and casing will be filled with a coke-based drilling mud that conducts electricity. He said the well would act as an anode to protect the pipe from corrosion. The well also acts as a deep ground should the line be struck by lightning.

“The old one has been here for years and the only thing people should notice when we’re gone is a new box on a telephone pole,” said Daniels. “This job will take us about three days if the weather holds.”

Daniels said the natural gas pipeline running through Houston travels East/West. He said they routinely pass through towns and everyone always asks what they are doing.

“They think we are drilling for oil or water,” said Daniels. “It’s really not that exciting but it is honest work.”

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