Williams officials outline pipeline project
BY ROBERT L. BAKER
Work is about to unfold for a new natural gas pipeline system that will connect Marcellus Shale wells in Susquehanna County with a route to major metropolitan markets.
Mike Dickinson, who is the Tunkhannock-based Manager of Operations and Technical Supervisor for Williams’ Appalachian Basin, said Friday that when the 34-mile pipeline known as the Springville Gathering Line is in place along with a new compressor station, Williams would be able to transport about 450 million cubic feet of natural gas a day.
It has contracted with Cabot for about half the volume, but Dickinson said Williams expects that additional third parties will come forward within proximity of the new line.
Williams’ spokeswoman Helen Humphries said that no formal timetable with a starting date can be announced yet for the pipeline because her company is awaiting erosion and sediment control permits and those involved with wetlands crossings from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
“We can’t start until we get the green light,” Dickinson said, noting that work might be expected to start in May or June and
be completed in September.
Dickinson acknowledged that ground is being cleared for a compressor station on Shupp Hill and work on it will continue to run simultaneously to the pipeline installation.
Dickinson noted that one of the first indications to the public that work is about to commence is that there will be staging areas where 24-inch pipeline of carbon steel construction will be temporarily sited.
The company builds its pipeline in an 8-step process with the first step, pre-construction survey underway.
Then clearing of vegetation and grading , including temporary erosion control measures are installed prior to any earth-moving activity.
Trenching then will take place in which topsoil is removed from the work area and stockpiled while Williams uses backhoes and trenching machines to excavate the trench.
Next, individual joints of pipe will be strung along the right of way next to the excavated ditch and arranged so they are accessible to construction crews. A mechanical pipe-bending machine will bend individual joints to the desired angle to follow a designated path.
After the stringing and bending are complete, the pipe sections are aligned, welded together and placed in temporary supports. All welds are then x-rayed and a coating is applied which is electronically inspected.
At this point the pipe is lowered in the ground and the trench is backfilled with no foreign materials allowed in the trench.
After backfilling, and the entire pipe in place, it is filled with water and pressure tested. The tested water is disposed of, according to environmental regulations.
Finally at the end of the process, Dickinson said that Williams’ policy is to clean up and restore the work area as soon as possible.
While the pipe is being laid starting at one extreme and working on down its path, there will be two additional crews at work creating a new path for pipe to go under both the Tunkhannock Creek and the Susquehanna River.
To minimize environmental impacts, horizontal directional drilling will be followed, Dickinson said.
On both sides of the river, a limited work area is prepared up to a mile away from the actual bank of the river.
A pilot hole is created and while this is an oversimplification, pipe connected to a drill bit is pushed forward into the entry pit.
Once a pilot hole is complete the hole must then be enlarged to a suitable diameter for the pipeline.
Dickinson said the boring under the Susquehanna River, in the vicinity of Osterhout, should take about three months, and the boring under the Tunkhannock Creek up to eight weeks.
This will all be going on concurrently with the laying of pipe.
Dickinson said Williams has had a long history of boring under rivers and has done so under the Mississippi River.
He said the public can rest assured that safety measures are Williams’ utmost concern.
Dickinson added that once the pipeline and compressor station are in place, his real work begins with monitoring, routine maintenance and starts and stops along the way as other third party gas drillers eventually prepare to access the Springville gathering line to get natural gas to market.