Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Enbridge Flanagan South Pipeline Project, Part 2

A while back, I promised more photos and video of the pipeline project that visited our area in the fall of 2013. The Enbridge Flanagan South Project included about 600 miles of 36-inch diameter pipe intended to carry about 600,000 barrels of crude oil per day. After realizing what the project involved, I watched carefully each day so that I might witness the process of laying the pipe in the ground. Even though I've worked for Caterpillar for over 20 years, I had never witnessed the pipelaying process, and since it was available for viewing only a few miles from our house, I jumped at the chance.

This first video shows three of the four Caterpillar pipelayers on the job, and a couple of support machines that performed interesting, and very specialized jobs. The first hydraulic excavator visible, sandwiched between a couple of pipelayers, seems to be primarily occupied with moving the wooden piles that support the sections of pipe before they are lowered into the trench. As the pipelayers lift the pipe, the supporting piles of skids become unnecessary and are moved closer to the trench so the following pipelayers can more easily work around them. At the end of the video you can see another machine designed to gather the wood used in the piles and organize it for future use. That machine is featured more prominently in the fifth video.

This second video shows all four pipelayers working a little further down that same line with the support machines accompanying them as before.

In this third video, the pipelayers have moved on to a new section of pipe, so one can see how they slide their slings under the free end of the pipe and slowly move it horizontally closer to the trench where it will ultimately rest following the fourth pipelayer. Notice the excavator "cut in line" to situate itself between the second and third pipelayer.

The fourth video features the first two pipelayers most prominently as they lift this section of pipe off the skid piles and gradually swing it toward the trench. The excavator behind the second pipelayer can be witnessed clearing the path for the last two pipelayers, which are successfully bringing the pipe to rest in the trench.

The fifth video picks up where the last one left off affording us a better view of the last two pipelayers and the utility machine that follows them. Even though it's not manufactured by Caterpillar (nor do we make anything like this machine), it intrigued me for the many actions it performed in carrying out the single task of picking up the wood skids and organizing them. The Pisony SkidPro picks the skids off the ground, arranges them in neat stacks, and wraps steel bands around the whole bundle. The machine can carry several bundles before they must be unloaded, and although I didn't witness it, the grapple is then used to lift the bundles from the SkidPro and load them on a truck for transport to the next section of pipeline.

Since the pipeline has been operational well over a year now, it's amazing to think literally millions of barrels of oil have traveled through this pipeline in our neighborhood. Most of the clues of the pipeline's presence have vanished, while the benefits of improved oil movement from Illinois to Oklahoma continue to be felt in the oil industry around the world.

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