Michels Completes Crucial Water Crossings On Rex Pipeline Project

September 2009 Vol. 64 No. 9

It may not be the largest or most extensive pipeline project ever built, but according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the Kinder Morgan’s Rockies Express (REX) Pipeline is the largest currently under construction and members of the Commission have unofficially dubbed it, “The King of Pipelines.”
REX is a joint development of Kinder Morgan Energy Partners L.P. and Sempra Pipelines & Storage, a unit of Sempra Energy and ConocoPhillips. Once completed, the 42-inch pipeline will extend almost 1,700 miles, from Rio Blanco County, CO, to Monroe County, OH.

Michels Directional Crossings, a division of Michels Corporation based in Brownsville, WI, was given the task of completing four deepwater bores on the project, including a tie-in on Blackburn Island, located between the Salt and Mississippi Rivers which border Missouri and Illinois. After the tie-in, crews were scheduled to travel to Ohio and complete the final two deepwater bores.

What made each bore so crucial was that FERC was paying special attention to the crossings because of the high number of levees in the area and the potential risk of environmental contamination to the surrounding, populated areas. Officials from REX not only needed the Blackburn Island tie-in completed without any problems, they also needed crews to complete two additional water bores in Ohio. It was also essential that all four drills be completed on time.

Crucial bores
Drilling was scheduled to begin near year-end 2008 and be completed within four to five months. One of the many challenges on the project was to complete all four drills in over 100-feet of water.
“We were hired for the job because of our qualifications,” says Michels Directional Crossings Operations Manager Tom Breunig. “We knew how crucial the crossings were to completion of the overall project.”

The first part of the plan consisted of two bores – a 3,500-foot drill across the Salt River and a 3,800-foot drill across the Mississippi River. Both drills would start at the same time and meet on Blackburn Island where crews would complete tie-ins and connect the pipeline from Missouri into Illinois. From here, the pipeline would continue eastward into Ohio where Michels Directional Crossings would complete the next two bores at Big Darby Creek and the Little Miami River.

Despite below-zero temperatures, crews and tons of equipment had to be transported via barges onto Blackburn Island. “Getting to the island was slow, but the challenge was really getting the equipment to work properly in the freezing temperature,” says Breunig.