Skip to comments.Protests or not, they have a pipeline to build
Posted on 11/01/2012 7:08:13 AM PDT by thackney
The teams start rolling out before daybreak, a rumbling cacophony orchestrated under floodlights and black skies.
They fan out, men carrying hardhats walking past trucks on the move, busloads of workers, and trailers carrying four-wheel-drive carts and heavy machinery.
About 700 workers building TransCanadas Keystone XL pipeline in Texas move out from a Mount Pleasant lot every morning in a mobilization fit for a war zone. The size of the effort, for just one segment of Keystone XL, is part of TransCanadas sophisticated, 4,000-person operation to dig through nearly 500 miles of land and install a 36-inch diameter oil pipeline that will bring a surge of crude to Texas refineries. It will connect with the oil hub of Cushing, Okla., and eventually will be one piece of a 1,700-mile pipeline stretching to Alberta.
Although work has been interrupted several times by protesters in East Texas who have locked themselves to equipment, stood in front of moving machinery and climbed into trees in the path of Keystone XL, the Canadian pipeline company has soldiered on.
If TransCanada is able to move forward uninhibited, it will complete in late 2013 the first piece of one of the most significant pipelines in U.S. history. If it is delayed, the company, which says it already may have incurred more than $500,000 in additional costs because of interruptions from protesters, could be on the hook for millions of dollars because of broken commitments to oil shippers.
It is moving full-steam ahead to make sure that doesnt happen, cutting through woods and digging up farmland as crews hustle to assemble and lay pipe that will be able to move 700,000 barrels of crude per day, more than the daily oil production rate in booming North Dakota, the nations second-largest oil producer behind Texas.
This is a lot more sophisticated than people think, said TransCanada spokesman Jim Prescott, as he stood in front of crews carrying out a delicate choreography to lower a quarter-mile stretch of Keystone XL into a trench about 10 feet deep.
The process of actually putting pipe into the ground is complicated, involving four moving cranes with rolling cradles that slide down a stretch of assembled pipeline at different angles, easing it into the trench as the steel bends and groans.
The pipe is remarkably flexible, Prescott said.
The company takes pains to ensure that welds along the pipeline are intact, scanning each one with an X-ray or ultrasound and then testing the line again once it is in place, he said.
Those efforts dont calm environmentalists, who argue that Keystone XL is bound to leak at some point, an event that could release oil into surrounding pastures and water supplies. Activists say, however, that the biggest environmental concern is not just a leak, but a release of the type of oil Keystone XL will eventually carry crude from Canadian oil sands.
Oil sands crude can be especially damaging, they say, because it has heavy components that can sink in water and cause long-term harm. A 2010 spill of oil sands crude from Alberta into Michigans Kalamazoo River has become the most expensive on-shore oil spill in U.S. history, resulting in a cleanup that has lasted more than two years and cost more than $800 million.
TransCanada argues that Keystone XL has had to meet dozens of additional standards that will make it the safest pipeline ever built. The company also says that oil sands crude is just as safe as any other heavy crude to move through pipelines.
And with the continent producing more oil from shale and oil sands for which there is plenty of demand, pipelines will be the safest and most environmentally friendly way to move it, Prescott said.
Although TransCanadas work to install the pipeline is not pretty, involving cutting through lush landscapes and sometimes burning foliage that is not marketable for sale, TransCanadas efforts will also involve substantial environmental restoration and its crews have been careful not to disturb sensitive areas, Prescott said.
But before the pipeline can even be put into the ground, several steps in TransCanadas assembly operation have to move smoothly. Once land is cleared, typically in a 100-foot wide space, pieces of 80-foot-long pipe are trucked through small towns and county roads onto the construction zone and lined up for assembly.
Not all stretches of the pipe are straight, however, and engineers pass through to mark portions that have to be shaped on-site. Roaring machines squeeze and bend rigid steel into banana-shaped curves, allowing pipe to snake through land, as it had to do in Winnsboro to move around a tree village constructed by protesters who refused to move out of the pipelines path.
The line is then welded together, scanned for integrity, touched up and then prepped for lowering into the ground as large yellow excavators dig into the earth, separating layers of soil along the pipe trench.
Its like taking a layered cake apart and setting each layer aside and then putting that cake back together again, Prescott said of the process, intended to protect delicate topsoil.
In an area where the pipes path runs through wetlands, workers placed a layer of wood beside the dig area to keep earth pulled out of the trench from mixing with adjacent soil.
Such efforts do little, pipeline opponents say, to make up for the clearing of nature, combined with the result of a pipeline transporting oil sands crude across thousands of miles of land.
Aside from moving the oil, the pipeline will also create a lucrative incentive for more production of oil sands crude, which oil companies acknowledge involves substantial energy, water and emissions, the critics say.
I dont think anybodys sugar coating it to try to say that this is honey, Prescott said. Its heavy oil. We get that. But the technology, in terms of producing it, is improving all the time and the technology to refine it is improving all the time as well.
The oil, Prescott said, will be produced and used as fossil fuel anyway.
The fact of the matter is the oil sands will be developed, he said. Stopping the Keystone XL pipeline system is not a zero-sum game.
Gulf Coast Pipeline Project
The Gulf Coast Project is an approximate 485-mile (780-kilometre), 36-inch crude oil pipeline beginning in Cushing, Oklahoma and extending south to Nederland, Texas to serve the Gulf Coast marketplace. The 47-mile (76-kilometre) Houston Lateral Project is an additional project under development to transport oil to refineries in the Houston area.
These are critical infrastructure projects for the energy security of the United States and the American economy. U.S. crude oil production has been growing significantly in Oklahoma, Texas, North Dakota and Montana. Producers do not have access to enough pipeline capacity to move this production to the large refining market along the U.S. Gulf Coast. The Gulf Coast Project will address this constraint, as will the Houston Lateral Project.
Construction on the Gulf Coast Project commenced August, 2012, with an anticipated in service date of mid-to-late 2013. The Gulf Coast Project will have the initial capacity to transport 700,000 barrels of oil per day and can be expanded to transport 830,000 barrels of oil per day to Gulf Coast refineries.
On July 27, 2012, TransCanada announced that the three permits required from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have been received, allowing for construction of the Gulf Coast Project.
Construction has commenced.
It is anticipated that the Gulf Coast Project will be in service in mid-to-late 2013.
Been seeing lots of activity at their Arp yard, where they have 100 or more “brand new” river mats stockpiled and heading out for soft ground.
Protests have been quiet after a visit to the County Pokey in Quitman. Guess once they got past the “looney progressive’s” property there’s not much for the Mermaid girl to do or they have had enough of East Texas Deputies.
There's a comeraderie, a spirit ... something speciel,
America has that.
We built Hoover Dam and other projects.
America builds, and THAT is what we need now ... something to BUILD.
The money is almost always good to excellent, but behind all of this labor is that unique element ... I am an American !
Shoot 40-60 holes of ANFO nearly every day. Neighboring farmer complains we rattled his windows. We mined his coal last year and he didn't seem to mind then.
For those interested:
Pipeline construction contracts have been awarded to Michels Corporation and Sunland Construction, Inc. Below is the contact information for suppliers and individuals to express an interest in supporting the project:
Please provide your name, phone number, craft, last company worked for, any previous work/location, and indicate that you are calling specifically about the TransCanada Gulf Coast Project.
Spreads 1 and 2
Cushing, OK to Polk County, TX
Sunland Construction, Inc.
Polk County to Nederland, TX
Human Resources Receptionist:
1.800.299.6295 or 1.337.546.0241
Alternatively, you may submit your information via link using Sunlands website: http://www.sunlandconstruction.com/contact
For me it was a sort of ... romance of work.
Now, my body won't co-operate and I understand how older men can get crabby.
I miss the work
Thanks for the info on the pipeline progress. Hope we get a good electoral result next week, and can go full speed ahead with these projects.
As for the environmentalists, I remember most of the same arguments back in 1969-70 when they were building the Alaska pipeline. To my knowledge, that project did not destroy the pristine and fragile Alaska wilderness. But that doesn’t keep them from trotting out the same old same old. I’m surprised they are not handing out the old literature including how Keystone XL will disturb caribou migration routes.
The coal mine was my intro to management.
I had one of the pit truck drivers come at me with an axe. One of our welders threatened to kill me. (I got a carry permit shortly after.)
We were producing 17.5 tons per man day when I took over. 25 tons per man day one year later.