Tesmec Bucket Machines Propel $425M Cheyenne Plains Pipeline

Mon November 01, 2004 - West Edition

The Tesmec 1175 bucket machines remain a big reason for the progress of the Cheyenne Plains project.

The 380 mi., $425 million project has been divided into three spreads. Associated Pipeline has spread one, which is 125 mi. US Pipeline is working on spread two and three, which are 135 and 125 mi., respectively.

Spread one and two are both being cut by ditching contractors, while US Pipeline is cutting spread three with two Tesmec 1175 bucket machines rented from Cashman Equipment, the Caterpillar dealer in Nevada.

“We are just rockin’ and rollin’ out here,” said Hill McCormick, ditch supervisor for spread three. “In the real good digging, we will hit 30 feet per minute and will regularly hit 25 to 26 feet per minute.”

Hill said the company tackled one stretch of pretty hard rock, which slowed them down a bit, but rather than bring in a hydraulic hammer and spend two or three days hammering, “we just slowed one of those Tesmecs down and sawed through it. It cost me a day and two sets of teeth, but it cut it and left a lot nicer ditch.”

David Headden, ditch mechanic of US Pipeline, said he “feels like the Maytag repairman.” Other than a conveyor bearing and some flashing now and then, there have been no mechanical problems on the job.

“These Tesmecs are more durable and require less maintenance than any trencher I have been around previously,” he said.

Part of the durability of the Tesmecs comes from the use of a flywheel gearbox. This flywheel creates kinetic energy, which helps keep the wheel running smoothly through the hard spots.

It also acts as an insulator protecting the hydraulics as well as the rest of the machine from the shock loads encountered by the digging buckets. The use of this drive system also eliminates drive chains, torque converters, transmissions and other expensive high maintenance components.

“The Tesmecs are doing an outstanding job,” said Allen Collier, general superintendent of US Pipeline.

Collier has now used the 1175s on two jobs, the Rocky Mountain Expansion job in Kemmerer, WY, and on spread three of the Cheyenne Plains Job.

“On the Kemmerer job, we cut several miles of rock we could not dig with the hoes, we couldn’t even rip it with a D-9,” he said. “The Tesmecs dug it all and held together.”

On the Cheyenne Plains job, the two Tesmecs and operators Richard Hart and Jessie Jinkins have recorded as much as 24,000 ft. in one day.

The Pipeline

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) sped approval of the El Paso Corp.’s pipeline project, which will boost the amount of Wyoming natural gas heading to eastern markets, back in March 0f 2004.

The Cheyenne Plains Gas Pipeline is expected to increase Wyoming’s total export capacity by 560 million cubic feet of gas per day.

The 36-inch diameter pipeline will run from the Cheyenne hub to Greensburg, KS, and could be in service by January 2005.

Portions of the pipeline will follow existing pipeline routes while others will be “green field” routes, or will cross lands previously without pipeline systems, such as the spreads involved in the Associated and US Pipeline projects.

FERC considered the Cheyenne Plains project a priority because of its benefit to the nation’s natural gas transmission system, FERC spokeswoman Tamara Young Allen said.

Some 14 shippers, a combination of producers, marketers and end-user distribution companies, have signed firm contracts for capacity totaling 560 Mmcf. El Paso Corp. said the company secured additional 10-year contracts to support expanding the pipeline to 730 Mmcf.

The significant interest among potential gas shippers prompted the expansion. Construction of facilities to add pipeline capacity will begin shortly after initial construction, according to El Paso Corp.