Workers Piece Together Pipeline in Poland Township
POLAND, Ohio – Dotted lines of pipes propped up on pallets flow north and south above the muddy fields as teams of pipefitters are deployed to weld them together and operating engineers to bulldoze the 15-foot trenches where they’ll be buried.
Four weeks ago, these fields were untouched, the residents of this rural neighborhood at the Pennsylvania line only hearing the beeping sounds of men and bulldozers at work from the nearby Carbon Limestone Landfill.
Today they see and hear pipeline work crews six days a week, arriving in trucks with Louisiana license plates and in a former school bus that ferries them from site to site as they piece the construction project together.
“It sure has changed the way it looks around here,” says a man walking his dog on Cowden Road near the entrance to the township park that faces the back of the landfill and its hills of garbage.
In this line of sight, a newly arrived crane sits off in the distance, on the site where Hilcorp Energy Co. of Houston is preparing to build its second well pad on landfill property. Hilcorp drilled its first well at the landfill months ago. Pipes -- still to be strung together and lowered into the ground – lead back to the well pad site.
“It’s probably good for the area,” says the dog-walker. “In two months they’ll be done here – until they drill the next well.”
None of the people The Business Journal encountered during the three days we scouted the area wanted their names to be used, and the workers building the pipeline – many from out-of-state but some from local union halls -- said they were under orders not to talk to the press. We did learn, however, that they arrived here at the beginning of February, that Sunday is their only day of rest, and that workers from outside the area are being housed at the Red Roof Inn in Boardman. We also encountered members of local trades unions who said they appreciated being employed by the Texas company doing the work.
The Poland Township section of this pipeline project runs parallel to Struthers Road, crossing Ariel, Miller roads and Felger Roads. It’s part of the $300 million, 50-mile Hickory Bend wet gas gathering system that Pennant Midstream LLC is building in northeastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania. The pipelines will bring wet and dry gas from nearby Utica shale wells to the natural gas processing complex for which land is being cleared nearby, off State Line Road in New Middletown.
Associated Pipe Line Contractors Inc. of Houston has the contract by Pennant Midstream “to install approximately 5.5 miles of 12-inch, 3.5 miles of 20-inch and 3.5 miles of 24-inch pipeline in Mahoning County,” according to the North American Pipeline Project trade journal.
Pennant Midstream is a joint venture established by NiSource Gas Transmission and Storage of Indiana and Hilcorp. NiSource and Hilcorp operate a second partnership that involves Hilcorp drilling on “a significant combined acreage block in the Utica/Point Pleasant Shale formation in northeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania,” the companies said this summer, and sending that gas through NiSource pipelines to processing plants it will operate.
The first phase of the Hickory Bend project consists of a pipeline system capable of handling 400 million cubic feet of natural gas per day and a cryogenic plant able to process 200 million cubic feet of natural gas per day.
“Fabrication of the processing plant is complete, and the plant is stored and is awaiting installation,” a NiSource spokesman told The Business Journal in November. The gathering system is expected to come online during the first quarter of this year and the cryogenic plant to be built in New Middletown that should be in production by the third quarter, the company said.
Last week Associated Pipe Line trucks and work crews were spread across Springfield and Poland townships, working systematically to dig the trenches and string together the pipes. On Thursday, where the pipeline crossed Felger Road, trucks from Castle Builders Supply in New Castle, Pa., brought concrete to fill beneath the road and above where the pipeline was buried. Nearby, bulldozers were moving dirt to cover the trenches holding what was described as a12-inch gathering line.
By midday Friday, this road crew had moved on to Miller Road where the welding team had finished stringing together the pipes that the day before laid in sections on both sides of this road. A trench would now be dug to place the pipe beneath the Miller Road, and more truckloads of concrete poured.
For the untrained observer, not privy to the engineering plans, the lines of pipes are like pieces in a lateral – and scenic -- jigsaw puzzle.
At Ariel Road, pipes zigzag around a pond where Canada geese flock. Two horses frolic in a nearby pasture. A few hundred feet north, sections of pipe lie next to a house that appears to be relatively new.
Every mile along the route and at every road crossing is a Porta-John.
“They’re giving us all the business for the portable toilets,” says James Patton, an employee of Nesbit Portable Toilets in New Castle, Pa.
Patton says the work keeps him and another employee on the job “50- to 60 hours a week.
“They don’t tear up the roads. They bore under them and they ran into a leach bed on a guy’s septic system,” he relates. “ So they had us come out and suck the leach bed out so they could go through the leach bed without contaminating the ground and the sewer.”
The landowners are paid for the pipeline easements and the mineral leases (if they own the rights) and could gain lucrative royalties. But it’s not just the rural landowners along Felger, Miller and Ariel roads that stand to benefit financially from the pipeline project.
In the high-end Olde Chartered Trail housing development, built just west of Struthers Road about 10 years ago, many of the upscale homeowners have leased their mineral rights. Now, with the pipelines being strung nearby, some are being asked to authorize seismic testing on their beautifully landscaped lots.
Letters dated Jan. 16 were sent to homeowners from Discovery Acquisition Services of New Castle, Pa. The seismic survey would consist of laying cables and geophones on their lots, “drilling of shot holes and the use of vibroseis equipment,” states the letter.
Olde Chartered Trail homeowners would be paid $25 if they agree to authorize the testing.
“I guess we’ll do it,” says one homeowner. “I don’t see why we wouldn’t and besides, it’s good for the area.”
Copyright 2013 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
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