First Tier 4 Machines Tested On Tennessee Valley Gas Line Construction

By Erin Nelsen, Online Editor | November 2011, Vol. 66 No. 11

The pipeline owner, Spectra Energy, took a proactive stance on community outreach. “Response and interaction with the local communities has been positive, and we continue to foster those key relationships. East Tennessee Natural Gas has existing pipeline infrastructure throughout northeastern Tennessee, and thereby is able to utilize existing utility corridors and minimize stakeholder and environmental impact,” said Andrea Grover, director of Spectra Energy’s stakeholder outreach. “We remain committed to maintaining an open line of communication with all of our stakeholders throughout the entire NET Project process.”

Bratcher affirms the focus. “They’ve had town hall meetings to let everyone know what’s going on, let everyone get involved for those who want to be active in it. This is a pipeline corridor that’s existed, so that’s nothing new to them. It’s just a little bit of growth.” Still, he says, “We’re trying to make as small a footprint as we can through this country.”

Hard-Won Progress

By mid-July, the project had shaken free of early weather delays and was in full swing, although the challenge of the terrain fulfilled its promise. “Seventy-five to 80% of it’s been rock. We’ve shot a lot of rock and we’ve machined a lot of rock and we’ve dug a lot of rock. We’ve had a lot of two-toned areas, a lot of tight restricted areas because of an existing hot line that we’re paralleling that’s been another challenge,” Bratcher reported. However, clearer weather throughout June and July and an increase in number of workers kept the schedule on track, and a September 1 completion date looked likely as of this article’s press date.

As for the new excavators, they’ve earned praise under the tricky conditions. “I talked with my ditch crew the other day and they’ve had great success with them. They’re holding up to the actual changing of the soil conditions. That’s some pretty tough rock up in here in northeast Tennessee, and they’ve managed that. They’ve walked through these hills and handled the inclines well. They just seem to have more power than the older machines. “

Closer to Bratcher’s heart is the commitment the investment in new equipment represents to the workers. “We’ve had some great people come up and work in these hills. As a construction worker, it’s a great thing to see companies keep up with the technology, whether it’s an excavator or a dozer or whatever, and put money back in the business to make the folks out in the field safe.”