By Bill Carlos, Contributing Editor
Operating engineers joined in a dramatic maneuver to connect New Jersey and midtown Manhattan with a 5,400-foot natural gas pipeline 140-feet beneath the Hudson River.
The connection was a critical piece of Spectra Energy’s 15.5-mile natural gas pipeline extension between Linden, NJ, through Bayonne, Jersey City and part of offshore Hoboken to its destination in Manhattan. Portions of the project are still under construction, which is scheduled for completion later this year.
In early 2012, Spectra Energy won approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to replace and modify existing facilities to transport critically needed natural gas supplies to high-demand areas of northern New Jersey, New York City and Connecticut.
“Expanding pipeline capacity is intended to reduce bottlenecks and fill the demand for clean, reliable energy in the most densely populated areas of the country,” said John Rocco, lead engineer for the general contractor on the project, Henkels & McCoy.
Rocco noted that Jason West, also with Henkels & McCoy, served as general superintendent overseeing the project and that Michels Directional Drilling of Brownsville, WI and Sterling Equipment of Boston, MA served a subcontractor. Both Henkels & McCoy and Michels played an integral role in completion of the project. However, the focus of this article is on the work by the operating engineers.
The Hudson River crossing followed months of preparation. The length of pipe needed to span the width of the river required approximately 135 forty-foot pipe joints to be welded together and x-rayed to verify integrity of each joint, then doped. Each weld required a minimum of three hours, according to Rocco.
In preparation for the crossing, five 1,000-foot lengths of pipe were assembled. A convoy of 15 side-booms transported each 1,000-foot section along busy 18th Street in Jersey City, parallel to the Hudson County Light Rail line on the border with Hoboken. At the river’s edge, the pipe was handed off to six lattice cranes positioned on barges in the river.
Crane operators hoisted the pipe into an arch and guided it down to the water, where it was connected to the drillhead that had burrowed across the river from Manhattan via a directional drill. Once connected, the pipe was slowly pulled back beneath the river. As each 1,000-foot section was pulled in, a new section was welded to it at the river’s edge until the entire 5,400 feet of pipe was pulled back to the Manhattan side.
The pullback reached the Manhattan side over a two-day period. Crews were then able to make the final connections.
“This achievement is a testament to the value of the extensive pipeline training we provide our members through our Local and through our International,” said Greg Lalevee, business manager of IUOE Local 825.
“One day before the pullback was scheduled, we were asked to assemble an additional 36 engineers to take part,” said Lalevee. “Even on that short notice, we brought together an experienced team and integrated them seamlessly into the core group. In the busiest, most densely populated areas of the country, we executed this task flawlessly, safely and on schedule.”
IUOE Operating Engineers from around the country participated, including Local 3 of Alameda, CA; Local 4 of Medway, MA; Locals 14 and 15 of New York City; Local 49 of Minneapolis, MN; Local 101 of Kansas City, MO; Local 137 of Briarcliff Manor, NY; Local 139 of Pewaukee, WI; Local 147 of Norfolk, VA; Local 178 of Fort Worth, TX; Local 624 of Jackson, MS; Local 627 of Tulsa, OK; and Local 965 of Springfield, IL.
Local 825 had become known for its pipeline skills and experience during construction of the Millennium pipeline in 2007, which connected Independence in Steuben County, NY, to Buena Vista in Rockland County, NY, to help meet the energy needs of Northeast markets.
Local 825 is headquartered in Springfield, NJ, and represents more than 6,500 heavy equipment operators in New Jersey and parts of New York state.