Challenges Of Overlapping Construction On 3 Major Pipeline Projects

In 2009, Michels Pipeline Construction, a division of Brownsville, WI-based Michels Corp., was involved in construction of portions of three major North American pipeline projects: TransCanada’s 2,148-mile Keystone Pipeline, Kinder Morgan’s 1,679-mile Rockies Express Pipeline and Enbridge Energy’s 1,000-mile Alberta Clipper Pipeline.

“With all of these projects overlapping each other, one of our biggest challenges was the coordination of crews and equipment,” said Michels Pipeline Construction Vice President Bob Osborn. “That said, it was a banner year and I’m proud of the job we did.”

Beginning in May with the Rockies Express Pipeline, Michels then started work on the Keystone Pipeline, in June, before beginning work on the Alberta Clipper in August.

Crews wrapped up work on the Alberta Clipper recently, marking the finish of just over eight months in which the company completed more than 328 miles of work on three of the largest pipeline construction projects in North America.

Rockies Express
Kinder Morgan’s REX Pipeline was the first work Michels did on any of the projects, beginning construction on May 4, 2009.

Nicknamed “King of Pipelines” by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the Rockies Express Pipeline spans 1,679 miles and transports natural gas from Colorado to Ohio. A $6.6 billion project, REX will carry roughly 1.8 Bcf/d of natural gas.

REX, which is a joint venture between Kinder Morgan, Sempra Pipeline and ConocoPhillips, consists of three portions — REX-Entrega, REX-West and REX-East. Michels worked on the 639-mile REX-East.

Taken as a whole, the scope of the project was enormous. REX required 1.4 million tons of steel, and there were 110,814 sections of welded 42-inch pipe. Kinder Morgan negotiated with more than 6,500 landowners for rights of way, and there were nearly 20,000 employees working on REX at the peak of construction.

The Michels-specific portion of the project was Spread H, which called for 52 miles of 42-inch natural gas pipeline and was located near Circleville, OH where Michels located its warehouse. At the height of construction, Michels employed 828 people on the job, which local officials said was a boon to the economy. Officials from Pickaway County, which Circleville is located in, estimated the county’s economic benefit to be close to $10 million. Superintendents Tony Tristani, Joey Wade and Freddie McKenzie completed work on Nov. 24, 2009.

“It was a pleasure to work with Kinder Morgan, Sempra and ConocoPhillips,” Tristani said. “And on top of that, the local residents were very friendly and accommodating.”

Keystone Pipeline
Michels started work on TransCanada’s Keystone Pipeline in June 2009, working on spreads 2A and 3B of the project. Keystone will transport crude oil from Hardisty, Alberta to Cushing, OK when fully complete later this year. The $12 billion project consists of 30-inch and 36-inch pipe, and will have a total capacity of 1.1 million bpd. When complete, it will span 2,148 miles, with 769 miles in Canada and 1,379 miles in the United States.

Michels actually began work on the 130-mile spread 2A in May 2008 and finished mainline installation in early 2009. After a lull of about three months due to weather, Michels returned to clean up and testing of Spread 2A and began installation of the 140 miles of spread 3B in May. Work on 2A was completed in October and spread 3B was finished by mid-November.

All told, the project totaled 270 miles, with a peak of about 460 employees and 100 subcontract workers. For its safety leadership and performance on the project, Michels was awarded one of the first Keystone Pipeline Vice President’s Awards. Michels also worked closely with residents to alleviate their concerns.

“Many people came to us with issues regarding their land,” Project Manager Mike Brouillette said. “We worked closely with TransCanada to take care of their needs, and I think, for the most part, everyone walked away from the job happy.”

Alberta Clipper
With work on REX-East and Keystone still ongoing, Michels began its third and final massive pipeline project of 2009 near the Canadian border.

Michels was heavily involved in both spreads of Enbridge’s Alberta Clipper project, with Tristani providing superintendent services for spread one and Wade working on spread two. Michels’ work on spread one consisted of 69.7 miles of 36-inch crude oil pipeline in northern North Dakota and Minnesota. Running parallel to six other pipelines en route to Superior, WI, spread one starts at the Canadian border near Neche, ND, and ends at the Snake River in Minnesota.

The project was completed last month, ahead of schedule and under budget despite the start being delayed 2.5 weeks. The official start date was Aug. 20, 2009, after receiving the final permit needed from the Department of State.

Michels Directional Crossings was also involved on this project, making seven horizontal directional drills. Pullback support was provided by Michels Pipeline Construction.

The pipeline was welded using the Serimax automatic welding system and comprised of four forwarders with welding shacks attached. There were 95 road crossings, of which 73 were open cut, 20 were pneumatic hammer bores and two were track bores. There were also 25 open-cut water body crossings and five foreign pipeline crossings, three of which were track bored and two of which were open cut.

The project used 482 employees at its maximum capacity and logged more than 500,000 total man hours. Crews also battled a swing in temperatures from 82 degrees F all the way down to -32 degrees F.

All 69.7 miles of pipeline on spread one have been inspected by Enduro Pipeline Services with the use of a caliper gauging tool pig (smart pig). No anomalies were detected on the first 28 miles, and tests are ongoing on the remainder.

As part of the $3.6 billion project, Michels began construction on spread two on Aug. 21, 2009, and was estimated to wrap up work in late-January. Spread two spans 67 miles of 36-inch crude oil pipeline from the Snake River, where spread one left off, to Clearbrook, MN. The maximum number of employees working on spread two at any time was 508 people, which had a big impact on the local economy in towns such as Thief River Falls.

Michels Corporation, (920) 924-4300,

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