By Kay Braddock
Jeff Rauh was one of several TransCanada representatives on hand during the State Department’s scoping meeting in Terry fielding questions and offering the pipeline company’s perspective on a variety of issues.
One of those issues includes TransCanada’s request for a special permit.
If the federal special permit is granted much of the 1,980-mile pipeline will use .465 inch steel pipe rather than .515 inch steel pipe. The use of thinner walled pipe has received criticism. But Rauh said the special permit deals with more than just the pipeline’s thickness.
“What is regulated is a relationship between the strength of the steel, the thickness of the steel, the operating pressure of the pipe,” Rauh said, explaining other variables are figured into the equation as well.
“There are actually 50 separate things that we do to ensure the integrity of the pipe,” Rauh said. “If we cannot demonstrate that the pipe will be as safe or safer than without the special permit, then we will not get approval to use it.”
Some of those extra steps include burying the pipe deeper in order to reduce the risk of external contact, a complete inspection process of every weld on the pipe, and applying a fusion bonded epoxy coating to the pipe to prevent corrosion.
TransCanada expects to find out later this year whether a federal agency will grant the special permit.
“The granting of a special permit is always revocable,” Rauh said. “We have to demonstrate that we are taking appropriate measures to assure the integrity of the pipe.” Adding, “If the special permit is revoked, it doesn’t mean you dig up the pipe and put in thicker walls. It means you adjust the operating pressure.”
“By lowering the pressure you can operate within the standard regulations,” he said.
Although the special permit has been requested to use throughout most of the pipeline, Rauh points out that where the special permit is not being requested is based on “situational locations,” rather than geographical ones.
Urban areas are one location where the special permit hasn’t been requested. This has more to do with the increased digging activity occurring in or near cities.
“It becomes much more difficult to say, ‘by putting the pipe down four feet we can keep all of that activity away from the pipeline,’ ” he said.
Near rivers is another area where the special permit hasn’t been requested. This is because of the stresses subjected to the pipeline during construction near waterways, according to Rauh. Special permits are also not being requested near pumping stations where the pipeline will be above ground, due to temperature stresses.
“The regulation doesn’t regulate how thick the walls are,” he said. “What the regulation seeks to do is regulate the integrity and ensure adequate integrity.”
“Our objective is to have a pipe that is safe everywhere, whether it’s in a rural or urban setting, under a waterway or through a pasture land or cultivated crop land,” Rauh said. “We want to ensure that that pipe will have full integrity forever.
The life of the pipeline and abandonment procedure is another issue that has drawn concern.
The pipeline’s minimum lifetime is 40 to 50 years, according to engineering designs addressed at the Terry meeting.
“The pipeline will be managed as a permanent asset,” Rauh said. “It’s a little like asking how long the highway is going to be used for cars and trucks.” He added repairs to the pipeline would be done as necessary.
If the pipeline is abandoned the product will be removed and the pipeline will be filled with a nitrogen gas to ensure a natural non-corrosive environment within the pipe, according to Rauh, noting federal abandonment procedures will be followed.
Describing the Terry meeting he noted, “This one featured many more concerns and fewer people expressing support for the project.”
“This is how liquid energy products are moved most efficiently to market, as well as natural gas” Rauh said. “Pipelines move products to market safely, effectively on a daily basis.”
Published May 26, 2010