Crews aim for start on pipeline

DOT preparing for natural gas project

Posted: Tuesday, January 21, 2003

When construction workers begin showing up along the side of Kalifornsky Beach Road or the Sterling Highway in the next few weeks, don't be alarmed.

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities has not gotten an early start on its road maintenance season.

Construction crews will soon begin work on the 33-mile Kenai Kachemak Pipeline, the result of a cooperation by Marathon Oil, Unocal and Enstar Natural Gas. Marathon is a 60-percent owner of the pipeline, and Unocal has a 40 percent stake. The oil and gas companies partnered with Enstar to oversee construction and operation.

John Lau, project manager for Norstar, Enstar's construction and engineering subsidiary, said trucks already are rolling through Soldotna carrying 49- to 60-foot, 12-inch diameter piping that will distribute natural gas from wells in the Ninilchik area to south Kenai Peninsula natural gas customers as well as communities as far north as the Matanuska and Susitna valleys.

He said crews are in the process of completing right-of-way work and will begin laying pipes between the end of this month and early February.

Crews of as few as 12 to as many as 70 will work along the Sterling Highway from Mile 128.5 to Mile 12 of Kalifornsky Beach Road on 10-hour shifts, said Tim O'Malia, project manager for Houston Contracting Co. O'Malia said he expected the project to be complete by the end of July.

Lau said the pipeline should be up and running by as late as Oct. 29.

"We're right on schedule," he said. "Some customers will receive gas within 2004."

The process will begin with crews laying out the pipe along the specified right of way and welding together pieces of the pipeline up to several hundred feet at a time. Land identified for the pipeline route will then be trenched, and the pipeline will be lowered in and connected, with protective tape going around the pipe joints to prevent corrosion. Then, the trenches will be filled in.

O'Malia said the pipeline will cross some driveways, turnouts and intersections, and crews will notify property owners and communities far enough in advance to have "as little impact as possible."

He said all utility companies will be on site to identify and locate assets -- cable, phone, electrical and gas lines -- that may be buried and could be unearthed when crews break ground to put the pipeline in place.

O'Malia said his crews will work to impact traffic as little as possible and make every effort to inform drivers of the work being done.

"We'll definitely have a lot of signage out there," he said. "Just like any other construction project, you'll know it's there. And, hopefully, we'll get far enough off the road, nobody will notice we're even there."

Enstar will hold a meeting Feb. 11 at Tustumena Elementary School for potential Kasilof-area customers. Lau said the company is providing gas service to customers based upon economic viability.

"If there's a density of customers adequate to justify a main extension, we'll run a line to them," he said.

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