North American Oil & Gas Pipelines

SEP 2018

North American Oil & Gas Pipelines covers the news shaping the business of oil and gas pipeline construction and maintenance in North America, including pipeline installation methods, integrity management innovations and managerial strategies.

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22 North American Oil & Gas Pipelines | SEPTEMBER 2 018 Pipeline Software Keeps Large Northwest Alberta Project Efficient Despite Deep Mud, Extreme Cold By Jason Rossback L andscape alone can challenge any pipeline project, but con- ditions reach extreme levels quickly when natural elements, such as thigh-deep mud and 40-below temps, intersect with the man-made constraints of a large-scale project encompassing thousands of joints, a fast timeline, multiple sections si- multaneously under construction, and no room for error. McElhanney Geomatics Engineering Ltd., a provider of surveying, mapping and geomatics solutions in the oil and gas sector, faced all of these conditions and more in July 2016 when it started a 280-km pipeline project in northwest Alberta, Canada. The project included laying a 24-in. pipe and a 16-in. pipe, both licensed for HVP liquids (ethane, propane and butane), for the pipeline operator that hired them. McElhanney's work on the project lasted 11 months and spanned public and private lands, foothills, riv- ers, streams and dense forests, and in- cluded clearing limits, pipe inventory, and field data collection. "It doesn't matter if it's warm or cold," says Geoff Louks, a manager for major projects for McElhanney. "When you're doing a pipeline, you get one shot at it." A software solution from Trimble specialized for pipeline surveying played a critical role in ensuring correct documentation for the entirety of the project, especially as crews addressed extreme elements combined with chal- lenging project tasks and timelines. "We did some other smaller jobs with it," Louks says, "but this was the big test." Bogs and Temperature Swings Geologically, northwest Alberta is a region known as the Boreal Forest, an ecozone that is heavily forested and covered with muskeg, a North Ameri- can bog consisting of water, partly dead vegetation and layers of sphagnum or other mosses. The region also includes farmland, high and low foothills, and creeks and rivers draining north and east from the Rocky Mountains. "In the fall, a big rain came through, and with the melting snow on clay, you get quite a significant layer of mud," says Gerald Andreiuk, a survey engineer who led quality assurance/ quality control efforts for the project. "It sticks to your boots. You can easily take a step and you are sliding, so you can't get close to the trench, for obvi- ous safety concerns." The mud also got deep. "We have a picture of a guy with an Argo, a tracked vehicle," Louks says. "He hopped off the Argo, and he was up to his waist in mud. That was in May." The climate pushed the extremes as well. Characterized by strong seasonal variation, the region has short, mod- erately warm and moist summers and long, cold and dry winters. Sea- sonal temperatures can fluctuate from summer highs of 30 degrees Cel- sius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) to the mi- nus 40s Celsius/Fahrenheit in winter, with January being the coldest month. "There were times when it was the better part of minus 40," Louks says. "Once it gets to that extreme, every- thing just shuts down." Managing a Pipeline Data Deluge For McElhanney, based in Edmon- ton, Alberta, the northwest Alberta pipeline project also pushed the boundaries of data management and analysis. Because of its large size, the proj- ect was divided into four different spreads — or manageable lengths — between two contractors, with McElhanney's team splitting to serve both contractors. To staff the proj- ect, McElhanney used 25 two-man survey crews, three field supervisors, Against All Elements Against All Elements

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