Willbros Handles Challenges to Complete Mexican Pipeline Ahead of Schedule

August 2015, Vol. 242, No. 8

Rita Tubb, Executive Editor

NET Midstream’s affiliate, NET Mexico Pipeline Partners, LLC., saw completion of its Net Mexico Pipeline ahead of schedule and placed into service in November 2014.

NET Mexico will interconnect on the Mexican side of the border with Phase 1 of the Los Ramones Pipeline, which is being developed by an affiliate of Gasoductos de Chihuahua S. de R.L. de C.V. The pipeline is anchored by a long-term firm gas transportation agreement, for up to 2.1 Bcf/d, with MGI Supply Ltd., an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Pemex Gas, Mexico’s state-owned gas company.

NET Mexico Pipeline Partners awarded Willbros Group Inc. a contract to construct the pipeline. The scope of work included construction of approximately 120 miles of 42- and 48-inch natural gas pipeline from a location near Agua Dulce, Nueces County, TX, to a delivery point near the City of Rio Grande, Starr County, TX. The project also included ancillary facilities commencing at a point of interconnection with the Los Ramones Project being developed by an affiliate of Gasoductos de Chihuahua S. de R.L. de C.V.

Willbros’ Project Manager Sam Samudio discussed company’s involvement in the Net Mexico Pipeline and bringing the project into service ahead of schedule.

P&GJ: What was your involvement in development of the Net Mexico Pipeline Project?

Samudio: I acted as a project manager for Willbros Construction throughout the construction phase of the NET Mexico Pipeline project. I was responsible for interfacing with the owner of the pipeline, NET Mexico, managing the overall project progression, financial performance, and also working with our management team and construction crews on a daily basis to ensure that the project was progressing as efficiently as possible.

P&GJ: What were the physical dimensions of the project?

Samudio: The NET Mexico Pipeline project encompassed 2.7 miles of 48-inch diameter pipeline and 117 miles of 42-inch pipeline. The project kicked off in Mexico just south of Rio Grande City, TX and terminated at the Agua Dulce Hub Station in Agua Dulce, TX. The design capacity for the NET Mexico pipeline is currently 2.3 Bcf/d but can be expanded to 3 Bcf/d.

P&GJ: The Net Mexico Pipeline required an authorization under Section 3 of the Natural Gas Act and a Presidential Permit. Were there any delays due to permitting issues?

Samudio: No, we did not experience any delays in regards to the construction phase in regard to the Presidential Permit which was issued to NET Mexico in November 2013.

P&GJ: The project has both a U.S. and Mexico segment. Did your company handle construction on both sides of the border?

Samudio: Willbros utilized a subcontractor for the Mexico portion of construction. The Mexico portion included only the end of the Rio Grande River crossing and was capped underground. The U.S. segment began at the entry of the Rio Grande River crossing and progressed north 120 miles to NET Midstream’s Agua Dulce Hub Station.

P&GJ: Where did each contractor’s segment start and terminate and what installation method, or methods, were used to install the pipeline?

Samudio: Willbros Construction supported the drill contractor that performed the 48-inch Rio Grande River crossing and installed the remaining 42-inch and 48-inch pipeline by open trench and bored crossings (foreign pipeline crossings, water body crossings, roads, etc.). The Mexico subcontractor handled the exit side of the Rio Grande River crossing by excavating the exit pit, removing drilling head and welding a cap onto the end of the pipe.
P&GJ: Was it difficult to resolve any of the cross-border issues for the project?

Samudio: The combination of U.S. and Mexico segments presented a bit of a logistical challenge due to the fact that there was material and equipment that needed to be shipped into Mexico from the U.S.

P&GJ: The portion of the pipeline that extends from Starr County, TX to the international border had to be installed using a horizontal directional drill under the Rio Grande River. What are the details of the drilling effort?

Samudio: Michels Corporation was contracted by NET Mexico to complete the crossing, which was approximately 2,350 feet in length and approximately 45 feet deep under the Rio Grande River. The crossing was done using the direct pipe installation method which was chosen because of the ability for the drill rig operation and pipe to be prepared and installed from the U.S. side.

P&GJ: How long did it take to complete the HDD?

Samudio: After mobilization and setup of the drilling equipment, the actual crossing of the Rio Grande River took approximately 25 working days to complete.

P&GJ: What do you consider the most challenging aspect that crews had to deal with during construction?

Samudio: I think the most challenging aspect of the project was the weather and climate conditions related to the summer months in which the NET Mexico project was completed. The terrain in that area is relatively flat and very conducive to the mainline construction methodology that we implemented to complete the project.

P&GJ: In addition to the pipeline work, how many road crossings and water crossings were required along the pipeline route (excluding the Rio Grande River crossing)?

Samudio: Willbros completed 65 bore crossings along the NET Mexico Pipeline route. Of the 65 bore crossings, there were 34 road crossings, 29 foreign pipeline crossings, and one railroad crossing. Willbros also completed 309 open-cut crossings on the project, which included 139 road crossings, 26 water crossings, 143 foreign pipeline crossings, and one waterbody crossing.

P&GJ: Did contractors opt to use open cut on water crossings or directional drills?

Samudio: Due to the time of year in which the project was constructed, the most efficient and effective option was to open cut all of the water crossings on the project. Most of the water crossings along the proposed route had very little, if any, water flowing due to the lack of rain in the summer months.

P&GJ: Were mitigation measures applied in environmentally sensitive or archaeological areas along the pipeline route?

Samudio: Whenever there are environmentally sensitive areas along the route we do our very best to mitigate any damage or impact our work has on these particular areas. When there is any expectation that we will be encountering sensitive areas, we employ specialty crews and follow specific procedures to minimize our construction footprint.

P&GJ: Were there extreme terrain issues along the route that operators had to deal with?

Samudio: Overall, we did not experience any terrain issues that were not foreseen during the bidding process or required special attention. Willbros is very familiar with the South Texas terrain and weather patterns; therefore, we felt that we would be able to demonstrate our abilities during construction.

P&GJ: Where will NET Mexico offer intrastate service from?

Samudio: The NET Mexico Pipeline will transport gas from nine interconnects at the Agua Dulce Hub Station. These include Eagle Ford Midstream, Enterprise Intrastate Pipeline, Enterprise Texas, Houston Pipe Line, Kinder Morgan Tejas, Conoco Lobo, Natural Gas Pipeline Company of America, Tennessee Gas Pipeline and Southcross.

P&GJ: What is the destination of the gas being transported via the Net Mexico Pipeline?

Samudio: The gas is being carried to a receipt point near Rio Grande City, TX in Starr County.

P&GJ: Was construction of the pipeline completed on time or ahead of schedule?

Samudio: The project completion date was originally scheduled for Dec. 1, 2014 but was completed and in service ahead of schedule. Mechanical completion was achieved on Oct. 4 and the pipeline completed the commissioning phase and placed into service on Nov. 17.

The 2,350 feet of 48-inch, .900 w.t. river crossing pipe sits on pipe rollers waiting to be pulled under the Rio Grande River. The crossing took about 25 days to complete once drilling began.

Sam Samudio
Project Manager

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