Steel-Reinforced Pipeline Installation Saves E&P Company USD 50 Million
In the wake of Hurricane Ingrid’s torrential downpours in 2013, a series of devastating mudslides in the remote and mountainous region of Sierra Norte de Puebla, Mexico, washed out two essential pipelines belonging to the refinery division of a major oil and gas exploration and production company. One of these lines was a 14-inch carbon steel pipeline that conveyed 80,000 barrels of gasoline per day, providing half the daily amount consumed by Mexico City’s 20 million residents. The other line was a 24-inch carbon steel pipeline that supplied 50,000 barrels of crude oil per day to the company’s refinery network, which was regularly processing 482,000 barrels of crude daily. With these two lines out of service, the company was spending over USD 1 million per day on tank truck transportation costs in an attempt to supply Mexico City with gasoline.
Beyond the company’s reduced capacity to deliver an adequate supply of gasoline to the capital, the situation also presented several other major difficulties. First, the storm-damaged pipelines crossed over remote mountainous terrain, making repairs problematic. Next, besides the complexities involved in moving crews and equipment to the remote repair site, washed-out slopes on the right-of-way created steep grade angles that would make operating heavy equipment quite hazardous. Finally, the damaged pipelines were located near an indigenous population, making it imperative that any repair effort have a minimal environmental impact on the area.
After evaluating their options, the company concluded that the quickest way to restore the damaged lines was to install bypass lines at connection points before and after the original damaged sections. To expedite this process, the company selected FlexSteel pipe because it can be installed quickly and its rugged design enables direct installation in challenging terrains. The pipe would also be able to endure the pressure and transmission requirements of the original carbon steel pipelines. The company’s repair plan called for the installation of four, 1,123-ft (342-m) FlexSteel 6-inch 1,500 psi (100 bar) bypass lines. Two of the lines would intersect the 14-inch gasoline pipeline and the other two would intersect the 24-inch crude oil pipeline. In addition, flanged connectors on the FlexSteel lines would connect to ANSI 600 carbon steel flanges on the original pipelines to effect a tie-in of the four bypass lines. Because the steep, washed out right-of-way was largely impassable, a steel-wire cable would be installed across the slide zone, and an excavator would be used to pull each pipe segment individually along the surface of the terrain. Pulleys would also be used to make turning the bypass lines easier and to guide the pipe along the desired path.
With the company’s support, a FlexSteel-trained contractor and a small crew completed the entire bypass pipeline project in four days. When compared with a steel pipeline installation, which would have required 60 to 90 days to replace the damaged lines using a minimum crew of 50 workers per line, FlexSteel’s solution enabled the company to substantially reduce the costs associated with crew size and pipeline installation time.
The company has been extremely pleased with the reliability and performance of FlexSteel’s pipelines. After commissioning the four bypass lines, the company’s engineers noted that there was no vibration, movement, or pressure drop, despite the high rates at which the lines were delivering crude oil and gasoline. It is estimated that FlexSteel saved the company approximately USD 50 million by rapidly restoring the pipelines to service, which eliminated the need to use trucks to deliver crude oil and gasoline to Mexico City. Because of this project, the company plans to use FlexSteel 2-inch line pipe for a future 8-inch pipe-in-pipe rehabilitation project.