Pipeline precision

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Pipeline precision

Pipeline precision

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Three words come to mind if you visit any of the worksites of Long Island’s largest gas transmission project since the 1960s – pride, precision and teamwork. The pride of National Grid employees – crews who are doing most of the work; the precision in which  they go about their jobs; and the teamwork of many different departments coming together to make Long Island’s gas system safer and more resilient.
While many utilities facing large-scale gas transmission work would have looked to contractors to do the majority of the labor, National Grid knew it had the skilled workforce in house to get the job done right.

“This project speaks volumes to National Grid’s capability,” says Director of Gas Transmission Engineering Mike Kern, whose team is responsible for evaluating the 1,200 miles of transmission pipe the company owns, including about 250 miles on Long Island. “We look forward to taking on the tough projects.”

Protecting a main artery
The project covers the replacement of 25 ISO (isolation or insulation) joints along one of the two main gas transmission pipelines coming onto Long Island – this one through Long Beach via the Transco feed from New Jersey. This major ‘artery’ supplies Long Island’s 568,000 customers with 40 percent of their gas.

The ISO joints for this project are 3,000-plus pound specially engineered joints that connect two sections of 30-inch diameter steel transmission pipe. Separating the pipe into segments with the ISO joint protects the pipe by removing stray short circuits and electrical currents, virtually eliminating corrosion and resulting in increased life of the pipeline.

LI Gas Transmission projectThe project started unexpectedly back in 2012, when one of the original joints – installed during the 1960s – was discovered leaking during a routine patrol. It was replaced immediately, but five more leaks on joints were found and replaced along the line during 2013.

“We look at all our transmission pipeline assets and make decisions whether to preserve them with further maintenance or invest in new, updated equipment,” adds Mike. “Once we found the leaks to be systemic, we recommended replacing the rest of the joints along the pipeline’s route. It’s all about proactively maintaining system integrity and keeping the public safe.”

In-house expertise
The project features a team with a wide base of skills and knowledge from across the company. Welders from the welding pool. Crane operators from General Shops. Construction, Gas Control, Resource Planning and Community and Customer Management all had important roles in the project.

“The project really starts in the office with the engineering department, which leads to construction, to the crane operators, the welders and right on down the line,” says Scott Pietrowski, Field Operations Supervisor. “There’s a lot of pride here.”

LI Gas Transmission projectInforming customers ahead of the work was key to setting expectations. Some of the jobs were in the middle of residential neighborhoods and crowded business districts where work could last for weeks.

“We go out before the project and meet with the customers along the route,” says Kathy Wisnewski, Community and Customer Manager. “We act as the buffer between operations and the customer. This gives the ops folks the opportunity to really focus on their job.”

Once in a lifetime
For many employees this is the job of a lifetime. And it’s not an easy one by any stretch of the imagination. Workers deal with tight spaces, high traffic, water infiltration in the pit, and the challenge of moving heavy, cumbersome equipment to and from the job site every day. Welders line up pipes that spring or move when cut.

“Not too many people get to work on a project of this size in their career,” says Kurt Busch, Working Underground Foreman in Gas Construction, and a 29-year company veteran. “All of my guys realized the magnitude of this job. There’s no question they want to be part of it and they always rise to the occasion.”

More to go …
Since the first leak was discovered, 21 ISO joints have been replaced along the route – 15 so far in calendar year 2014. The project is targeted for completion this fall and will end with a particularly challenging job – one that’s located in a tight area near the Long Island Rail Road, a LIPA substation and numerous underground facilities.

Phil Echevarrio, Manager of Gas Field Operations, and the project manager for the project, says, “We have four more to go, but our employees our ready, willing and able. They know how important this job is so that safe, reliable natural gas flows to the customers of Long Island.”

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