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Concrete Pump Aids in Sealing Up Natural Gas Pipelines

Sealing a five mile gas pipeline poses a dilemma - and Putzmeister has the solution.

Fri May 24, 2013 - Midwest Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

One contractor’s dilemma of sealing up abandoned natural gas pipelines extending almost 5 mi. (8 km) is being solved with a Putzmeister BSA 14000 HP-D trailer-mounted concrete pump. The trailer pump, proving its long-lasting quality and durability after 27 years of operation, is still going strong by pumping a special mix exceptionally long, 4.8 mi. (7.7 km) distance to fill horizontal pipes solid with grout/concrete — a long distance pumping feat for the record books.

The Dilemma

The BSA high-pressure concrete trailer pump is efficiently handling the niche application by pumping a special grout/concrete mix to intentionally plug up natural gas pipelines no longer in operation. These gas pipelines, if left alone, will likely rust, collapse and potentially cause a future void. Therefore, TransCanada Pipelines Ltd. (TransCanada) headquartered in Calgary, Canada, needed a viable solution to prevent the pipes from caving in and causing future problems.

With the problem pipes being located in Wisconsin, TransCanada hired a local contractor to take on the 3.5-mi. (5.6 km) pipeline in Appleton, Wisc., and the 2.2- and 4.8-mi. (3.5 and 7.7 km) pipelines in Beloit, Wisc. Contractor Meade Electric Co. Inc. (Meade) of Countryside, Ill., became responsible for the task, which required dealing with pipes extending far distances. Removing the pipes from the ground would have cost an exorbitant amount of money. Therefore, pumping grout/concrete to seal up the pipes was deemed a more cost-effective solution. While the distance was one that had been attempted by others, it had not yet been conquered by the contractor.

When Meade presented the dilemma to ACPA member, Original Concrete Pumping (Original) of Bensenville, Ill., its answer was to employ the high-performance features of the Putzmeister BSA 14000 trailer pump, a standard model from the company’s fleet. To handle the long distance, the pump could provide plenty of power with its Cat diesel engine and attain high hydraulic operating pressures up to 5,221 psi (360 bar) in rod side operation.

Setup to Perform

To meet the demands of the application, the setup from the trailer pump included a 90-degree elbow clamped on to the pump’s five-in. (12.5 cm) outlet, with a reducer extending to 4-in. (10 cm) diameter concrete delivery line. The delivery line traveled 10 ft. (3 m) to reach the opening of a hole that housed the natural gas pipeline below. Using another 90-degree elbow, the delivery line then extended into the 10-ft. (3 m) deep hole where snap couplings and pins were used to hook the delivery line to the end of the gas pipeline, which was welded with a heavy-duty flange. As a precaution, a mesh screen was placed over the hopper to ensure no foreign objects would clog the pipeline when pumping the far distance underground.

Upon completion of pumping, a heavy-duty gate seals off the pipe ends until the concrete hardens, and the contractor can leave the gate valve in place or remove it and use again.


“The first pipeline we pumped for Meade was 3.5 miles long and located under a landfill in Appleton, Wisconsin,” said Harvey Hoyer, owner of Original. “For nine continuous hours, our 27-year-old Putzmeister pump effortlessly pumped 140 cubic yards of concrete through ten-inch diameter gas pipeline without a whimper, never exceeding 100 bar.

“That alone shows the quality, endurance and long-lasting life of a Putzmeister to go the distance,” added Hoyer. “And if a 1986 model year trailer pump can do this, just imagine what a newer pump with all of today’s advanced features could do.”

The mix design was a neat grout consisting of a nine-bag mix with very coarse sand, cement, water and a small amount of aggregate, an even stronger mix than used in swimming pools today. On the last day of October 2012, the crew started at 9 a.m. and pumped until 6 p.m. This was longer than expected, as more grout/concrete was needed than ordered; and being late in the day, only two ready mix trucks were available to dispatch the mix. As a result, the mix was delivered one truck at a time with delays in between.

“Waiting 20 minutes for the next mixer load to arrive felt like an eternity, as the pump had to push the mix from a dead stop each time we started pumping again. So although this highlights the performance of the pump, it made the job more nerve-wracking,” said Scott Schmied, Original’s service manager and pump operator.

“It was certainly a relief when concrete came out the other end of the 3.5 mile pipeline,” added Hoyer.

Once the Original team had this long-distance pour successfully under its belts, it attempted a longer 4.8-mi. pour in Beloit, Wisc., for the same contractor in December 2012.

Going the Distance

The Beloit site involved gas pipeline running under a populated community, and the goal was to fill a 6-in. (15 cm) diameter gas pipeline to a distance of 2.2 mi. going north one day, and return to handle another pipeline going south at a longer 4.8 mi. distance the next. However, the first pour was accomplished so quickly — only 2-1/2 hours — that both pipelines were handled the same day, totaling 7 mi. (11.2 km) of pipe accomplished in an eight-hour day.

The setup was similar to the first pipeline project at the landfill, and so was the mix with the exception of a five-hour retarder added to the first six mixer loads should concrete availability or plug-ups underground become an issue.

The BSA 14000 trailer pump did its part and proficiently pumped a total of 133 cu. yds. (102 cu m) of grout/concrete, never exceeding 130 bar (1,885 psi) to attain the far distance — a distance that was not an easy straight path, but one that changed elevation nine times — traveling up and down hills as well as under a 14-ft. (4.27 m) wide creek and beneath a major road.

“It’s hard to comprehend, but five miles is a really long journey when pumping,” said Schmied. “However, the key was ensuring a constant, uninterrupted flow of the mix being pumped in the pipeline when going these long distances.”

A Record Success

“In the past, Meade had attempted other alternatives and employed other contractors to close up these natural gas pipelines, but without much success. So they were really impressed with the trailer pump’s performance, especially in pumping 4.8 miles, the longest distance by far that they, and we, have ever pumped,” Moyer said.

“The trailer pump could have easily pumped an even further distance, as it had not reached its peak performance by any means,” added Schmied.

A world record of 1.25 mi. (2 km) for pumping concrete was previously set by the Putzmeister BSA 14000 HP-D, the same model used in this application, when refurbishing a tunnel at a hydraulic water gallery in France.

As far as a long-distance record for pumping grout/concrete, it remains basically undocumented.

“We went to various sources, researched the internet and even called global companies to investigate the feasibility of pumping such far lengths; and the longest distance we could find with similar conditions was just over a mile long. Based on our research, I’d say we more than achieved a long-distance world record,” Moyer said.

With the success in efficiently handling this unusual application, Original’s high-pressure trailer pump is being requested to handle even more natural gas pipeline projects for Meade, of which the distance could increase. Stay tuned.

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