Keystone Pipeline Project Moving Toward Completion

September 2010 Vol. 237 No. 9

Buddy Ives, Contributing Editor

Construction on TransCanada Corporation’s long-distance, large-diameter C$5.2 billion Keystone crude oil pipeline reaching from Canada’s Alberta oil fields to markets in the U.S. Midwest is grinding to completion after more than two years of intensive construction activity.

The Keystone construction scope involved building a 2,148-mile, 30- and 36-inch pipeline to transport up to 590,000 bpd from the terminal and storage facilities at Hardisty, Alberta to markets at Wood River and Patoka, IL and on to Cushing, OK.

Mobilization of equipment and services, including construction, for the project started in 2008. Site of first construction was in North Dakota at the U.S.-Canadian border in May 2008 with Canadian construction getting under way during June 2008. Completion on the pipeline section to Cushing is scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2010.

Although Keystone is several months from completion, TransCanada has started filling completed sections of the pipeline system.

Here is a quick tale-of-the tape for the Keystone project:

  • Total length is 2,148 miles.
  • 1,379 total miles of new pipeline was built in the U.S., including 1,084 miles of the U.S. mainline from the U.S.-Canadian border to markets in Wood River and Patoka as Phase I and 295 miles from Nebraska to Cushing as Phase II.
  • The Canadian portion included construction of 232 miles of pipeline and the conversion of 537 miles of existing TransCanada pipeline from natural gas to crude oil transmission.
  • The new line has a 30-inch outer diameter to Illinois and increases to 36 inches from Nebraska and Kansas to Cushing.
  • The pipeline was buried with a minimum depth of cover of four feet, depending on land use.
  • Initial nominal capacity is 435,000 bpd with the capability of increasing capacity to 590,000 bpd.
  • Estimated operating pressure for the new pipeline sections is 1,440 psi. The converted section will operate at its current approved allowable operating pressure of 880 psig.

Originally, the Keystone system was a partnership between TransCanada and ConocoPhillips. However, TransCanada became the lone owner and operator in June 2009 through a purchase transaction.

In the U.S., UniversalPegasus International and Trow Engineering Consultants were contracted to handle design, engineering and construction management for the project. UniversalPegasus also provided inspection services while Trow also handled an environmental inspection this year. Construction contracts were awarded to Henkels & McCoy, Inc., Michels Corp., Price Gregory International and Sheehan Pipe Line Construction Co.

Henkels & McCoy, Inc. was assigned Spread 1, which consisted of laying 130 miles of 30-inch pipe from the U.S.-Canadian border to a point in Barnes County ND. Michels handled Spreads 2 and 3, consisting of 275 miles of 30-inch. Spread 2 picked up where the first spread left off and ran to a point in Day County, SD. Spread 3 extended into Hutchinson County, SD.

Price Gregory was contracted for Spreads 4 through 7, and Sheehan built Spread 8. This work extended from Hutchinson Country, SD through Nebraska and Missouri to Wood River and Patoka. The 295 miles of Phase II (Spreads 9, 10 and 11) extend from Illinois through Nebraska and Kansas to Cushing, OK. Price Gregory worked on Spreads 9 and 11 and Sheehan worked on Spread 10.

For the most part, the mainline route from the U.S.-Canadian border to Illinois and the Cushing section covered good pipeline construction terrain consisting of rolling hills, flat land and farm land with some rock. Trenching for the line was performed using conventional methods.

While the work was reasonably standard, the project was not without a number of challenges. For example, the route crosses countless road crossings and required 24 directionally drilled river and stream crossings along the mainline and six directionally drilled rivers on the Cushing section. The river crossings were contracted to Laney Horizontal Drilling and Southeast Drilling. Pre-construction activity provided the biggest challenges, such as working with 4,500 landowners and acquiring permits in six different states.

Pipe for the mainline section was supplied by Welspun and Berg Steel. Specifications called for the line pipe to be one steel grade, API-5LX-70, which was delivered to the work sites in 76-foot double joints.

Pipe for the Cushing section was supplied by Evraz, Welspun and Berg also in one steel grade, API-5LX-70M. Here, deliveries were made in 73-foot double joints. Bayou Pipe Coating yard coated (DOES THIS MEAN yard-coated) the mainline and Cushing pipe using 3M FBE.

To join the pipe, crews used the Serimer Automatic System where the double joints were automatically welded. For other sections, welding was manual arc from welder-owned(IS WELDER-OWNED CORRECT?). Four passes were required for the automatic and manual welds, followed by 100% inspection.

The Keystone design called for 30-inch valves on the mainline at 59 locations. On the Cushing section, 36-inch valves were installed at 15 different locations. The valves, all supplied by Cameron, are located at roughly 25-mile intervals.

Canadian Activity
In Canada, Worley Parsons’ pipeline engineering group performed the detailed design, engineering and construction management for the Keystone mainline and the pump stations for the entire project.

Ledcor Pipeline Limited performed the construction work, which called for 63 miles of 30-inch pipe in Manitoba and 177 miles of 30-inch in Alberta. Work began in June 2008 to meet an October 2009 completion. With few exceptions, the pipe specifications and construction techniques were similar to those used in the U.S.

A significant phase of the Keystone development involved TransCanada’s conversion of its 34-inch mainline gas pipeline between Burstall, Saskatchewan, and Carman, Manitoba. The initiative allowed the company to reduce construction costs.

As planned, the converted pipeline will transport the crude oil at its previously approved operating pressure of 880 psig. To ensure optimal availability of the converted line, TransCanada first determined the existing pipe was free of stress corrosion cracking that potentially could lead to leaks. Between October 2008 and March 2009, GE’s field crews performed crack detection inspection runs in three segments of the natural gas pipeline measuring 182 miles, 195 miles, and 158 miles.

The project’s scope and schedule requirements meant that GE needed to simultaneously deploy several types of inline inspection (ILI) tools. Prior to deployment, TransCanada developed a special pipeline manifold to accommodate all of the tools and ensure that no air bubbles were left in the line. A total of eight tools were used on Section 1 and seven tools on Section 2. Six of those were batching tools. TransCanada’s most serious challenge was the need to control a 1.86-mile batch of liquids in a given pipeline segment to ensure GE’s ILI tools could move at a consistent speed needed for accurate data collection.

Throughout the construction process, Keystone awarded service and supply contracts to suppliers and manufacturers for the various components needed to support operations once the pipeline was placed in service.

One contract, a C$5.4-million order was issued to Cameron for the company’s 20-inch Caldon LEFM 280Ci Ultrasonic Meters, for use at each pumping station along the the entire route. The meters will measure the oil as the pump discharge header is reduced from 30-plus to 20-inch to supply measurement data for use in controlling flow and pressure through the pumps to meet operational requirements and optimize power consumption of the pumps. Further, data from the meters will provide input for the leak detection system.

Another contract award involved Siemens receiving a contract valued at C$216 million to supply electrical and pumping equipment for the pipeline. Siemens’ contract called for delivering at least 37 pumping stations, a series of electrical houses and 19 substations for the pipeline.

To analyze the integrity of the new pipe, GE Oil & Gas was selected to perform a series of crack detection inspections using its UltraScan Duo Device. Reportedly, the GE tool was the first ultrasonic “smart pig” to use phased array sensors to search for multiple types of cracks and other microscopic flaws in just one run of the line.

In April 2009, GE’s PII Pipeline Solutions group completed its largest pipeline inspection project by helping TransCanada evaluate the condition of a 537-mile portion of a natural gas pipeline set for conversion. This part of the pipeline, which has been described as the equivalent distance between Paris and Berlin, needed to be inspected prior to being converted to transport crude oil.

Telvent won the contract to supply a Central Control System solutions. The company installed its OASyS DNA 7.5 SCADA system; a liquid management system; and SimSuite modeling applications for transient modeling, leak detection, and batch tracking. It also provided an operator-training simulator which was available prior to commercial operations, allowing Keystone operations personnel the ability to train on the central control system.

Pump Stations
Keystone’s overall design initially called for 43 pump stations, including 16 stations in Canada plus the Hardisty Terminal. The U.S. mainline stretch has 23 stations installed and the Cushing section required four stations. On average, three pumping units are located at each station with an estimated 4,000 horsepower per unit.

TransCanada designated the stations by groups with Canada’s Group 1 stations located in Alberta, Group 2 in Saskatchewan, and Group 3 and Group 4 in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The U.S. groups include Group 1 and Group 2 in North Dakota and South Dakota; Group 3 and Group 4 in Nebraska and Kansas and Group 5 in Missouri and Illinois. Installation contractors for the stations included Monad, Whaler Industrial Contracting, Inc. and Lockerbie & Hole Eastern, Inc. in Canada, and Industrial Company Wyoming, Willbros, and Jones-Blythe Construction Co. in the U.S. NUSCO Northern was the contractor for the storage tanks at the Hardisty terminal.

Final Construction Activity
Keystone’s Cushing activity is considered part of Phase II of the overall project. Extending 295 miles from Steele City, NE to Cushing, the 36-inch pipeline is in the final stages of construction. The extension will connect to storage and distribution facilities at Cushing, a major crude oil marketing/refining and pipeline hub.

In addition, this phase will include construction of the four pump stations and an expansion of additional pumping units for 22 of the 23 pump stations as part of Phase I in the U.S. In Canada, Phase II also will include construction of seven pump stations and additional pumping units for seven of the 16 initial pump stations built to support Phase I.

Construction is scheduled for completion later this year with the pipeline in full service by 2011.