Natural Gas Presents New Opportunities for Pa. Contractor
Being able to adapt to changing economic conditions and evolve into new construction ventures is what has helped John Anderson keep his company going.
The earthmoving equipment was responsible for road building, rock demolition and moving thousands of yards of dirt for underground utilities and site development.
John Anderson knows how to take existing heavy construction equipment and leverage it to find new opportunities, even in a new and emerging marketplace. John Anderson Construction is headquartered in Warren, Pa., (pop. 9,623). It has grown to include four divisions: earthwork, concrete, pipeline and facilities.
For the past 28 years, Anderson has worked in the construction industry. He started his own company in 1989 and over time, expanded his company's services from concrete work to include excavating, which led to becoming a site contractor, while still offering concrete services for civil projects.
The next step was getting more involved in excavating for underground utilities and site development. In 2008, just as the economy was in the middle of the longest recessionary period since the Great Depression, Anderson discovered a new opportunity — excavating for natural gas pipelines.
“We've been fortunate to find ourselves in the midst of the Marcellus Shale boom,” Anderson said. “We've positioned ourselves in the transmission pipeline and compressor station business, and it's really helped us grow.
The company has installed miles of steel and FlexSteel transmission pipe (steel-reinforced spooled pipe), up to 36 in. (91 cm) in diameter, and completed several compressor installations. Pipeline companies install compressor stations — a facility that helps transport natural gas from one location to another — typically every 40 to 100 mi.
(64 to 161 km) to ensure that the natural gas remains pressurized, anywhere from 200 to 1,500 lbs. per sq. in. (psi), according to www.naturalgas.org.
U.S. energy production continues to rise, due in part to the Bakken (crude oil) formation in western North Dakota and eastern Montana, and the Marcellus formation, which exists in the Appalachian Basin and contains previously untouched natural gas reserves. According to an annual review published by BP, oil and natural gas production in 2012 rose faster in the United States than anywhere in the world, an increase of 4.7 percent from 2011 to 2012. The United States is the largest producer of natural gas in the world, which is often considered the cleanest, safest and most useful energy source.
Pipeline projects in central and western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio and northern West Virginia account for approximately 75 percent of Anderson's business.
In May 2013, Anderson and his employees started on a new four-month, 3-mi. (4.8 km) pipeline project for Natural Fuel Gas Company. The corporation is based in Williamsville, N.Y., and is a publicly traded firm that specializes in four operating segments: exploration and production, pipeline and storage, utility and energy marketing.
Anderson called on his Doosan crawler excavators to perform the pipeline installation project. The excavators were paired with a 36- or 48-in. (91 or 122 cm) wide heavy-duty trenching bucket. Anderson's DX350LC-3 with a 48-in. (121.9 cm) Doosan trenching bucket has a heaped capacity of 1.96 cu. yds. (1.49 cu m) of material. The Doosan excavators dug 5- to 9-ft. (1.52 to 2.74 m) trenches for the pipeline, said Anderson.
Having a variety of Doosan crawler excavators suits Anderson and his operators well, especially when they're working on pipeline developments, Anderson said. He explained that the Doosan DX225LC and DX300LC models — 24.8 to 33 tons (22.5 and 30 t), respectively — are the right size of excavators for trenching, but the model that he likes best is the DX235LCR because of its reduced tail swing. The 173-hp (129 kW) excavator has a maximum dig depth of 21 ft. 11 in. (6.7 m) and a maximum reach of 31 ft. 7 in. (9.6 m).
The reduced tail swing DX235LCR better enables multiple Doosan excavators to work closely in tandem with one another on pipeline projects. “The DX235LCR cuts down on the chance of operator error and damaging the machine,” Anderson said. “Even though we're working in an open area, it's a little bit deceiving because if we're putting in a couple miles of pipe, we probably only have 50 to 60 feet of width to work in. The operators can't get off the permitted right-of-way of 50 feet.”
In addition to excavating, Anderson's operators use straps and a Doosan DX350LC-3 excavator to lift and place pipe as large as 36 in. and weighing up to 6.6 tons (6 t). Having good visibility from the cab to the work area is critical for the operator's success. Anderson says he rates the visibility from the Doosan excavator cab as “excellent.”
The DX350LC-3 is one of the newest generations of Doosan excavators and features a larger cab space to accommodate operators and keep them comfortable. Anderson said the new DX350LC-3 is comfortable to operate, but he also gives credit to the design of his older models, saying Doosan excavator cabs have always been friendly to operators.
This article was reprinted with permission from DoMORE Magazine, Winter 2014 issue.