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Texas Company Lays Out $75M for 70-Mile Natural Gas Pipeline

Sat January 15, 2000 - West Edition
C.J. Wright

In Texas, drought has turned fields brown, threatening the livelihood of some agricultural communities, while fire ban signs spring up in place of vegetation. Nonetheless, dust clouds bear a silver lining for the construction industry whose work goes unabated.

Such is the good fortune at the $75-million pipeline project of TE Products Pipeline Company, Limited Partnership (TEPPCO) near Houston where construction is progressing three weeks ahead of schedule. Beginning in September 1998, crews started digging its way along the 112-kilometer (70 mi.) line, headed toward a July 2000 completion date.

When finished, the ditch — varying from 4.5 to 6 meters (15 to 20 ft.) in width — will house three, 30.48-centimeter (12 in.) diameter, separate common-carrier pipeline systems that will run between the partnership’s terminal in Mont Belvieu, TX, and an ethylene steam cracker plant at Port Arthur, TX. The lines will connect this new ethylene plant being built in Port Arthur by a joint venture of FINA and BASF with TEPPCO’s LPG storage pipeline complex in Mont Belvieu.

According to Gary Daileda, TEPPCO’s manager of project engineering, a natural gas line will provide feed stock for the steam cracker plant. “When all is said and done, they’re going to make ethylene and propylene out of it,” Daileda said, explaining that these products will be shipped to Mt. Belvieu via the other two pipelines. “We have an underground storage facility there, and the pipeline facility will interconnect with other third-party pipelines in Mont Belvieu that will be using ethylene and propylene for their processing.”

Like many oil companies, TEPPCO has downsized its engineering staff, requiring more outsourcing; and while Daileda’s department retains responsibility for the line’s overall management, its project manager interfaces with BMH Eagleton Engineering, the company awarded a turnkey contract to do the engineering design, construction, and material procurement for the project. “Turnkey allows us to have one single point of contact and responsibility for the entire project that takes a big load off our back,” said Daileda.

In addition to engineers, Eagleton brings draftsmen, surveyors, right-of-way agents, and construction managers to the project. “I think we’re probably the only pipe engineering firm that takes on large turnkey projects,” said Duain Cagle, president of BMH Eagleton Engineering.

Cagle felt that the project has been going remarkably well, including the major challenge of the job: the responsibility for selecting the route and purchasing the required right-of-way — which amounted to a $17- to $18-million undertaking — to obtain a 112 kilometer (70 mi.) long, between 900 and 1,200 centimeter (30 and 40 ft.) wide, contiguous tract of land.

At both ends of the pipeline, small buildings will be constructed to house and protect all of the electronics and related items from the weather. Along the 112-kilometer (70 mi.) stretch, TEPPCO will use meter stations to control the pipelines remotely via satellite.

Designed by Eagleton, the stations are being constructed off-site by En-Fab Corporation, a subcontractor from Houston. These stations are being built as modular skid units. En-Fab manufactures the skids and piping and assembles the equipment. After testing, the units will be sent to the site where they will set on concrete pads. Pipes will be welded in place and electricals connected to junction boxes. “It’s a way of putting the equipment on site fairly quick and without a lot of labor,” said Wally Brown, project manager at En-Fab.

Michael Jamison, vice president of operations at Troy Construction Inc. in Houston — Eagleton’s subcontractor for site construction — inspected the first completed group of main line valve skids. Each has three big valves mounted on it with piping on either end to be fitted in place once it reaches the concrete pad.

According to Jamison, about 90 percent of the equipment his company uses is Cat. In heavy equipment, there are D7 and D6 dozers, 330 and 345 track hoes, as well as 571 and 561 side booms. Some are owned and others are rented from Mustang Tractor or Sunbelt Tractor and Equipment in Houston. To clear trees and brush, a Slashbuster attachment was mounted on a Cat 320 long reach hoe and a Lang 290-LTC stump grinder finished the job.

Besides the clearing for and digging of a 600-centimeter (20 ft.) wide ditch, Jamison said stringing the pipes presents a challenge. Although all three pipes have 30.48-centimeter (12 in.) diameters, each has a different wall thickness because of the varying amount of coating each needed. “You have to keep the right pipe for the correct line,” he said.

To take advantage of the inordinately dry weather, a heavy work schedule drives crews to complete the line in the area of the Wallisville Reservoir, also known as the Trinity River bottom. Subtracted by Troy to Laney Directional Drilling, the work involves excavating a push ditch and flooding it to shove the pipes through in low lying areas where rubber tired vehicles are needed. The remaining work in the area must be directionally drilled.

Helped by the fair weather, Cagle is confident that the project will finish on schedule. “We’re laboring under a bonus penalty clause and I have no intentions of losing that,” he said.

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