December 2021 Vol. 76 No. 12



Michels Completes 15,000+ Foot HDD Crossing 

Michels completed a 15,426-foot horizontal directional drill (HDD) of a 24-inch pipe crossing of Lake Sakakawea on the Missouri River in North Dakota, extending the limits of trenchless construction. 

The crossing is part of a new pipeline being constructed from Tioga, North Dakota, to near Watford City, North Dakota. The crossing is a critical element in the pipeline’s ability to deliver higher levels of natural gas associated with oil production from the Bakken and Three Forks Formations in Williston Basin and to reduce the amount of natural gas that would otherwise need to be flared. 

The HDD crossing of just less than 3 miles is one of the longest of its kind, surpassing by 3,174 feet a 20-inch HDD crossing Michels completed in the Bakken region in 2019. HDD minimized disturbances to the area and provided a delivery outlet for previously untapped energy sources in both instances. 

Although the crossings were similar in location, length, and technique, each project included its own unique and awe-inspiring accomplishments. 

Prior to pullback, the pipeline was assembled by Michels Pipeline in two sections – one of 426 feet and another of 15,000 feet. 

“When laydown space allows, long sections of pipe can be advantageous because they require fewer pull stoppages to weld pipe strings together,” Michels said. “While stopping can generally be accomplished, resuming movement of pipe can be challenging, even with a specific and well-planned drilling fluid and lubrication program.” 

As with the 2019 project, the recently completed project used the pilot hole intersect method and two custom-made drill rigs, each with more than 1 million pounds of push/pull capacity.  


New Regulations Place 400,000 Miles of Gas Gathering Pipelines Under Federal Oversight 

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is issuing a final rule that expands federal pipeline safety oversight to all onshore gas gathering pipelines. 

The rule, initiated over 10 years ago, expands the definition of a “regulated” gas gathering pipeline that is more than 50 years old. It will, for the first time, apply federal pipeline safety regulations to tens of thousands of miles of unregulated gas gathering pipelines. The final rule will – also for the first time – require pipeline operators to report safety information for all gas gathering lines, representing more than 425,000 additional miles covered by federal reporting requirements. 

“This rule will improve safety, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and result in more jobs for pipeline workers that are needed to help upgrade the safety and operations of these lines,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. 

Historically, gathering lines have been lower-pressure, lower risk, smaller-diameter lines, typically situated in lesser-populated, rural areas. But with the growth of fracking over the last 15 years, gathering lines with diameters, operating pressures, and associated risk factors similar to larger transmission lines have become more common. 

Ida Reduced Gas Production More Than Any Hurricane in Past Decade 

Hurricane Ida, which made landfall on Aug. 29, was the fifth-strongest recorded hurricane to make landfall in the continental United States. The hurricane caused more natural gas production shut-ins than any other hurricane in the past ten years, and the impacts continue, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported. 

At its peak, the disruption to offshore oil and natural gas activity caused by Hurricane Ida resulted in evacuating 288 production platforms and 11 drilling rigs. Fewer facilities were evacuated in advance of Hurricane Ida than for other recent hurricanes. However, the duration of the shut-ins caused by Hurricane Ida, more so than the number of evacuations, contributed to the larger reduction in natural gas production, EIA said. 

For the 28 days during which BSEE reported shut-in natural gas volumes because of Hurricane Ida, impaired natural gas production totaled 38.4 Bcf, or 56.0% of total U.S. offshore natural gas production in a month (when compared with the monthly total production for January of the same year) and 1.2% of total U.S. natural gas production (when compared with the monthly production total in January of the same year). 

In comparison, Hurricanes Laura (2020) and Isaac (2012) shut in 18.2% and 20.0% of offshore natural gas production, respectively, and 0.5% and 1.3% of total U.S. natural gas production, respectively, when compared with the production total in January of the respective years. 


AT&T: Some Fiber-Optic Infrastructure Going Under Ground 

Telecommunications giant AT&T will put parts of its fiber-optic infrastructure in southeast Louisiana underground to avoid future hurricane outages, the company announced. 

The company said in a news release that there were multiple cuts to key fiber-optic lines in areas affected by Hurricane Ida. 

The plan to bury fiber-optic equipment that had been on poles in the region will focus on Jefferson, Lafourche, Orleans, St. Charles, St. James and Terrebonne parishes. The exact cost of the project wasn’t given but AT&T said it will be in the tens of millions of dollars. 

The project is targeted for completion in the first half of 2022, the company said, with most of the work scheduled for completion this year. 

Tulane University Team to Study Water Pollution from Hurricane 

A researcher at a private university in New Orleans is getting nearly $50,000 to study how pollution spread by Hurricane Ida’s floods has affected south Louisiana groundwater and water systems, the university said. 

Tulane University associate professor Samendra Sherchan said the National Science Foundation grant will let his team sample water from about 150 sites. 

“This project is a time-sensitive and unique opportunity to collect perishable data and improve understanding of the extent of contamination in floodwaters from inland areas to groundwater,” he said in a November news release. 

Ida hit southeast Louisiana as a category 4 hurricane, bringing catastrophic floods from storm surge and downpours to many rural areas. 

Those floods could have spread dangerous microbes and chemicals to groundwater and wells, said Sherchan, who teaches environmental health sciences at Tulane’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. 


California’s PUC OKs Boosting Storage at Infamous Gas Field 

California regulators voted to increase the natural gas storage capacity of Aliso Canyon Field, the Los Angeles-area field where a 2015 blowout caused the nation’s largest-ever methane leak and forced thousands from their homes. 

The California Public Utilities Commission voted unanimously to increase the storage capacity at Aliso Canyon field to 41 billion cubic feet (1.1 billion cubic meters) of natural gas from the current capacity of 34 billion cubic feet (962 million cubic meters). 

The move is aimed at ensuring supplies of natural gas for the upcoming winter months “in a safe and reliable manner” even as the PUC continues working on longer-term plans to close the field, Commissioner Martha Guzman Aceves said in a statement. 

The field, which stores gas in old wells, has been at 50% capacity since 2018, but the PUC vote raises that to 60%. The PUC rejected an alternative plan to allow the field to operate at 100% capacity. 

A well failure on Oct. 23, 2015, led to the release of nearly 100,000 tons of methane and other substances into the air for nearly four months before it was controlled. Aliso Canyon is operated by Southern California Gas Co. 


Tennessee Woman Pleads Guilty to Falsifying Water Tests 

A Tennessee woman has pleaded guilty to submitting hundreds of false reports to state regulators about the cleanliness of wastewater  
she was paid to analyze, federal prosecutors said. 

DiAne Gordon, 61, faces up to five years in federal prison after she pleaded guilty on Oct. 26 to making and using false writings and documents in a matter within the jurisdiction of the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. attorney’s office in Memphis said. She is scheduled to be sentenced in March. 

As chief executive officer of a Memphis environmental testing company, Gordon was hired by clients to sample and test stormwater, process water and wastewater to satisfy Clean Water Act permit requirements. 

Prosecutors said Gordon fabricated 405 lab test reports and other documents sent to the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. Gordon forged documents from a reputable testing laboratory and billed her clients for sampling and analysis, they said. 

As part of a plea agreement, Gordon was ordered to repay more than $200,000 to customers. 

Natural Gas Pipeline Project Sues Landowners for Easements 

A natural gas company planning to replace pipeline in southeast South Dakota has negotiated easements with most landowners affected by the project after suing some in federal court. 

Northern Natural Gas, based in Omaha, Nebraska, brought condemnation suits last month against the owners of 19 tracts of land. All but four have since negotiated easements, the Argus Leader reported. The company is planning to replace 79 miles of pipeline stretching from South Sioux City to Sioux Falls that was built in the 1940s and 1950s. 

Northern Natural Gas was given the power of eminent domain because the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission certified the project, but it said it prefers to negotiate agreements with landowners. It has negotiated settlements with 195 property owners in South Dakota and Nebraska. 

The pipeline replacement project started this year and is scheduled for completion by November 2022. 


Phillips 66 to Acquire Remaining Stake in Partnership for $3.4 Billion 

Phillips 66 said it will pay $3.4 billion to acquire all the units of midstream business Phillips 66 Partners that it doesn’t already own, as it works to simplify its corporate structure. 

Phillips 66 Partners was formed by the refiner to own, operate, develop and acquire primarily fee-based crude oil, refined petroleum products and natural gas liquids pipelines, terminals and other midstream assets. 

“We believe this acquisition will allow both PSX shareholders and PSXP unitholders to participate in the value creation of the combined entities, supported by the strong financial position of Phillips 66,” Chief Executive Officer Greg Garland said. 

The all-stock deal, expected to close in the first quarter of 2022, will offer each outstanding Partnership common unitholder 0.50 shares of PSX common stock for each PSXP common unit. 


Michels Expands Marine Operations with Two Acquisitions 

Michels Construction has acquired two companies, PCi Dredging and Great Lakes Diving and Salvage, adding to its marine construction services capabilities. 

PCi Dredging uses dredging and related services to enhance, expand and restore waterways and shorelands. In addition to improving navigability, PCi Dredging performs work to improve environmental conditions, including floodwater holding and remediation of contaminated soil. PCi Dredging was established in 1978 by Kent Petersen as the Petersen Companies. Like Michels, PCi Dredging was family-owned and operated. 

Great Lakes Diving & Salvage uses trained and certified divers to provide inland and offshore underwater construction and diving services. It serves customers in the civil construction and engineering markets, including federal, state, municipal, and private sector needs. In addition to underwater construction, the company has experience in design, fabrication and installation of underwater solutions. 


NASSCO Announces Two New Grouting Specifications 

After years of work from its Infiltration Control Grouting Committee (ICGC), NASSCO has published two new grouting specifications: Pipeline Packer Injection Capital Grouting and Pipeline Packer Injection Pre-Rehabilitation Grouting V2.10. 

First published in 2014, the Suggested Standard Specifications for Pressure Testing and Grouting of Sewer Joint, Laterals and Lateral Connections quickly became the choice grouting document for engineers and municipalities. 

Updated for 2021, that document has been enhanced and renamed “Pipeline Packer Injection Pre-Rehabilitation Grouting.” Available for contractors, engineers, and system owners to download for free on the NASSCO website, Pipeline Packer Injection Pre-Rehabilitation Grouting addresses the need to eliminate infiltration prior to installing other rehabilitation methods and the ability of chemical grouting to act as a complementary technology after installed. 

The second specification, Pipeline Packer Injection Capital Grouting, was developed by NASSCO’s Infiltration Control Grouting Committee (ICGC) to address long term grouting means and methods that provide pipe stabilization by creating a pipe cradle-like stability in the bedding and a volumetrically significant, long-term, water seal outside the pipe. 

Specifications are available on the NASSCO website. 


New Pipes Could Ease Some Water Woes in Mississippi Capital 

Mississippi’s capital city will soon start installing larger water pipes to replace some of the lines that failed during a deep freeze that struck the Deep South in February. 

WLBT-TV reported that 48-inch (122-centimeter) cast iron water transmission lines have been arriving in south Jackson. 

City engineer Charles Williams said officials gave the order to proceed with the final phase of the project, which involves laying 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) of pipes in the area. 

The work will connect water transmission lines from the O.B. Curtis Treatment Plant to south Jackson. They will replace 24-inch (61-centimeter) pipes that failed to provide adequate water pressure from the plant during the winter storm.

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