By Sandip Sharma, Contributing Editor
To sustain growth in the Indian economy (GDP 8%-9%), the Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) has initiated a strategic trunkline pipeline project. This project involves the laying of a 28-inch diameter X70 pipeline across the western coastal state of Gujarat, covering central India and reaching New Delhi. The distance of the pipeline is 692 miles.
In its first phase, the pipeline route extends from Vijaypur (in central India) to Dadri (a major hub of thermal power plants near Delhi) and is already under construction. This will soon be followed by the Dahej-to-Vijaypur second phase for which line pipe and construction contracts are being awarded. With the completion of this project, GAIL will be able to transport 36 MMscm/d of natural gas to north India to meet the demand from fertilizer plants, power plants and industrial customers as well as city gas distribution.
The Vijaypur-to-Dadri pipeline passes through some geographically unique terrains and landscapes. This includes the famous ravines of the Chambal River in central India. These are hundreds of thousands of years old and have the distinction of being the only topographical feature of their kind in the world. Running alongside the meandering and picturesque Chambal River, these ravines span outward an average of 31 miles on either side of the river. A quick search on the Web would reveal the details of the terrain. References will also mention innumerable stories of these famous ravines providing a shelter and refuge for infamous and notorious Dacoits, fugitives and vagabonds.
Traveling through this hilly and rocky terrain on a recent visit, and under the protection of a squad of security policemen, R.D. Goyal, director of projects at GAIL, observed the challenges of laying a 48-inch diameter pipeline while facing so many adversities. Nonetheless, he remains confident of completing the project quickly.
For those who possess a sense of nature and a love of wild life, a visit to the project site can prove a delightful experience. The region has an assortment of rare species from the animal kingdom. These include freshwater dolphins, long-snouted crocodiles (ghariyal) and at least two distinct species of turtles. Ornithologists will enjoy the abundance of bird life along the stretches of the blue waters of the Chambal. Siberian Cranes, Egyptian Vulture (now an endangered species) and various waterfowl inhabit these areas in good numbers.
The route of the pipeline also offers a tour of some of India’s oldest forts. Additionally, the visitor can see the charming and still operational 150-year-old narrow-gauge railway that runs from Gwalior to Sabalgarh. Though seemingly outdated, it can cover nine miles in a half hour.
In my long career in the pipeline industry, I have never witnessed such a complicated and interesting pipeline route. The fusion of history, topographical uniqueness and the vigor of modern India blend with the marvels of nature and its diversity of flora and fauna. Amidst all this, a large array of 110-ton side booms work alongside Turkish technicians carrying out automatic welding and automated ultrasonic testing.
Careful and complete attention has been paid to preserving the natural environment by ensuring detours around conservation sanctuaries.