Modern HDD Tech Finally Brings Gas To Branson

October 2011, Vol. 66 No. 10

Branson is a popular Southwestern Missouri family vacation center, home to Silver Dollar City, hotels, fine restaurants, more than 50 live performance centers, a dozen championship golf courses and a host of other attractions. Yet city homes and businesses are just now being connected to natural gas.

A 48-mile-long, eight-inch diameter steel gas transmission line was completed last year through the rugged Ozark Mountains to bring gas from Aurora to Branson, and then crews constructed a distribution system within the city to bring gas service to customers.

The gas service provider is Southern Missouri Gas. Summit Utilities Management Services LLC, Littleton, CO, managed construction for both the transmission line and distribution system within the city.

Gas has been a long time coming to the Branson area, and a major reason is that rocky soils in the area make putting gas pipe in the ground extremely difficult and costly.

Bret Brown, Summit business development and construction manager, said the transmission line route contained the hardest rock he has ever encountered.

“Not only was the rock extremely hard,” he said, “but changes in elevation of the terrain, steep side slopes and drop-offs made construction difficult. We’ve done pipe projects in the Rocky Mountains, but this one was more difficult.”

The same hard rock is just beneath the surface of most of Branson.

bransonart1.jpg

Barrier to entry
Over the years, said Brown, several companies have held franchises to provide gas to the area, but they all dropped plans because the terrain and rock made construction too costly for the potential of a relatively small customer base. Beginning June 2010, crews of multiple subcontractors have been in Branson burying gas mains and service lines. Brown said most of the main-line work was completed in December 2010. Service work continues as customers are added. He added that the Branson gas distribution system to service approximately 1,000 customers comprises about 80 miles of mains consisting of 2-, 4- and 6-inch pipe, all HDPE pipe. Services will include another approximately 15,000 feet of pipe in 3/4-, 1 1/4-, 2- and 4-inch diameters.

Approximately 85 percent of construction of the distribution system has been completed by horizontal directional drilling (HDD), said Brown. Most services also are put in the ground by HDD.

One of the primary subcontractors for gas distribution construction in Branson was Woods Construction Inc., based in Colorado Springs, CO.