Natural gas from Unocal's Happy Valley prospect could be flowing by late this year through a proposed extension to the Kenai-Kachemak Pipeline being built by the pipeline company, according to Unocal.
The 32-mile-long KKPL connecting production drill sites at the Ninilchik Unit about 5 miles north of Ninilchik to the Kenai Gas Field in the central Kenai Peninsula will be lengthened this summer. The 15-mile extension route will take the pipeline along the Sterling Highway to Ninilchik and then southeast to the Happy Valley Well No. 1, about 10 miles inland.
Unocal spokesperson Diane Dunham said pipeline construction will begin in earnest starting next week. Completion is expected around mid-October.
Just how much gas will flow from the Happy Valley unit is not certain at this time, Dunham said.
"It is difficult to say," she said. "We are still drilling and testing wells and will be doing so right up to our Nov. 1 start date."
The pipeline, which commenced operations late last year, is a joint venture of Marathon Oil Company and GUT, a wholly owned subsidiary of Union Oil Company of California (Unocal). NORSTAR Pipeline Co. was formed to operate the KKPL, and will operate the Happy Valley Extension (HVE) as an integral part of the KKPL.
According to the extension project description, the 15-mile route was selected in an attempt to avoid as much as possible natural and manmade obstacles, private land, river and stream crossings, wetlands crossings, environmental impacts and cost. Generally, the 12-inch diameter steel pipe will be laid within Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities rights of way for the Sterling Highway and Oilwell Road.
H.C. Price Co., a Dallas-based firm that has had offices in Anchorage since 1974, when it began constructing the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, will be the contractor on the KKPL extension project. According to Vice President Dave Matthews, preliminary activity is under way.
One of four barge loads of pipe already is on the ground in Alaska, with three more on the way from the Lower 48. The work will be done in three segments the portion south along the Sterling Highway, a section around Ninilchik, and the stretch east to the gas well site, Matthews said.
"We will start stringing pipe first, then trenching, then laying," he said Monday. "We'll try to do it in a linear fashion."
To reach the Happy Valley gas source, the line must cross several small streams and the Ninilchik River. Plans call for the line to be driven underground beneath the ecologically sensitive waterways, which will be accomplished by horizontal directional drilling at eight different locations, Matthews said.
The process involves driving a pilot drill to the opposite side of a streambed, then attaching a device that reams out a larger diameter cavity as it is drawn back through the pilot hole.
"It is a safe and environmentally benign technique," Matthews said.
Cook Inlet Keeper Director Bob Shavelson agreed the technique is a good one for protecting sensitive habitat.
While some limited amount of traffic disruption may be expected along Oilwell Road, the project is not expected to close the Sterling Highway at any time, Matthews said.
During the peak of the construction job later this summer, the company expects to employ about 90 workers. The company goal, said Matthews, is to hire 50 to 60 percent of those workers locally.
The gas line should be complete around Nov. 1, and gas should begin flowing about the same time. Unocal is timing completion of its production wells to coordinate with the line construction.
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