Oil and gas production in Canada’s west has led to the need for a significant increase in pipeline capacity to reach export markets. Current proposals from major oil and gas transportation companies include numerous large diameter pipelines across the Rocky Mountains to port locations on the coast of British Columbia (BC), Canada. The large scale of these projects and the rugged terrain they cross lead to numerous challenges not typically faced with conventional cross-country pipelines across the plains. The logistics and access challenges faced by these mountain pipeline projects require significant pre-planning and assessment, to determine the timing, cost, regulatory and environmental impacts.
The logistics of pipeline construction projects mainly encompasses the transportation of pipe and pipeline materials, construction equipment and supplies, and personnel from point of manufacture or point of supply to the right-of-way (ROW) or construction area. These logistics movement revolve around the available types of access routes and seasonal constraints. Pipeline contractors and logistics companies have vast experience in moving this type of large equipment, however regulatory constraints and environmental restrictions in some locations will lead to significant pre-planning, permitting and additional time and cost for material movement. In addition, seasonal constraints limit available transportation windows.
The types of access vary greatly in mountain pipeline projects. In BC, the majority of off-highway roads and bridges were originally constructed for the forestry industry, which transports logs downhill whereas the pipeline industry transports large equipment and pipeline materials in both directions and specifically hauls pipe uphill. The capacity, current state and location of these off-highway roads must be assessed very early in the process to determine viability and/or potential options for construction access. Regulatory requirements, environmental restrictions, season of use restrictions and road design must all be considered when examining the use of or upgrade of existing access roads and bridges. These same restrictions are even more critical to the construction of new access roads and bridges.
The logistics and access challenges facing the construction of large diameter mountain pipelines in Western Canada can be managed with proper and timely planning. The cost of the logistics and access required for construction of these proposed pipeline projects will typically be greater than for traditional pipelines, but the key constraint is the considerable time requirement to construct the required new access and pre-position the appropriate material to meet the construction schedule. The entire project team, including design engineers, construction and logistics planners, and material suppliers must be involved in the planning stages to ensure a cohesive strategy and schedule. This paper will present the typical challenges faced in access and logistics for large diameter mountain pipelines, and a process for developing a comprehensive plan for their execution.