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Gas pipe would cross Arkansas River near site of '15 rift

by Noel Oman | May 17, 2017 at 4:30 a.m.
Plumes of water above a ruptured natural gas pipeline spout from the Arkansas River in this May 31, 2015, photo. The 63-year-old segment is being replaced with a pipeline to be placed inside a tunnel that will be drilled under the river.

A new pipeline to transport natural gas is scheduled to be installed under the Arkansas River between Little Rock and North Little Rock, near the site where a similar pipeline ruptured nearly two years ago.

Using an installation technique that the pipeline owner says will make it a safer river crossing, the 3,100-foot pipeline will replace a 63-year-old pipeline that ruptured on May 31, 2015, sending two large geysers of water skyward as it released nearly 4 million cubic feet of natural gas into the river near the Clinton Presidential Center.

The new pipeline will be installed under the river off property belonging to Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport/Adams Field.

"Texas Eastern Transmission LP is conducting a pipe replacement project under the Arkansas River," according to a statement from Michael Barnes, a spokesman for parent company Enbridge Inc., based in Canada. The company bills itself as the largest natural-gas transportation and storage company in North America.

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"The project will replace a 24-inch diameter auxiliary pipeline that runs approximately from the vicinity of the airport to North Little Rock. The project will use a horizontal directional drill to dig a tunnel and place the new pipe under the river."

The horizontal directional drill process, which will bury the pipeline well under the riverbed, will result in a safer natural-gas transportation and storage system, protecting it from the turbulence of the river as opposed to the existing pipelines, which are on the river floor, according to the pipeline industry.

Last year, the company employed similar technology to install an oil pipeline under the Mississippi River near St. Louis. The $23 million project buried the pipeline 65 feet under the Mississippi River bed with 2,400 feet running under the river and another 1,200 feet running under the Missouri flood plain, according to Enbridge.

The timeline for the replacement project on the Arkansas River is "pending approvals," Barnes said. Texas Eastern is owned by Spectra Energy Partners, which was recently acquired by Enbridge.

The 24-inch steel pipe will be installed in two segments with construction of the bore from the north taking place before the lay-down, assembly and pull of the pipeline south of the river. The pull-down will require a section of East Sixth Street to be closed for up to 48 hours during the pull.

Work on the project, about a mile downstream from the Interstate 30 bridge over the Arkansas River, is expected to be completed by October.

Word of the pipeline project came at a meeting Tuesday of the Little Rock Municipal Airport Commission. The commission, which oversees Clinton National, granted the request from the pipeline's owner, Texas Eastern Transmission LP, to help facilitate the project by:

• Granting the company a permanent easement to provide for the installation as well as continued operation and maintenance of the pipeline.

• Allowing Entergy Inc. to relocate an underground electric line around the area for the new pipeline.

• Providing about 3.5 acres for a temporary work space in a five-block section of Townsend Street from Capitol Avenue to East 10th Street, which is at the northwest corner of the airport.

Under the terms of the agreement, Texas Eastern would pay $26,200 for the permanent easement and $19,350 for the temporary work space.

When the pipeline ruptured in the Arkansas River, large chunks of concrete, possibly from the pipe, damaged a boat docked nearby at the Jeffrey Sand Co.

The break of the natural-gas pipeline was caused by flooding, which washed away riverbed, leaving the line unsupported, according to an analysis by the pipe's owner at the time, Spectra Energy Corp. It was a backup pipe to the main line of the company's Texas Eastern Transmission system.

Spectra Energy covered its main transmission line under the Arkansas River with a layer of rock in response to signs that the river's current played a part in the violent rupture of its parallel, backup pipeline

The pipeline runs from Texas to New Jersey.

Texas Eastern Transmission uses 9,096 miles of pipeline to connect Texas and the Gulf Coast with markets in the northeastern United States to supply fuel for electric generation facilities and helping to meet peak-day demands, according to Enbridge.

The backup line and main transmission line are about 10 feet apart. The backup pipeline was pressurized but not in operation when it ruptured.

A Section on 05/17/2017

A map showing existing and new pipeline routes.

Print Headline: Gas pipe would cross river near site of '15 rift


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