YPP White Paper Finalist

UPI Client Manager Matt Fournier recently submitted a paper to a White Paper Competition held by the Young Pipeline Professionals (YPP) in conjunction with their 2019 Symposium. His paper was chosen as one of the top 3 finalists and Matt was invited to present it at the YPP Symposium last month! Congratulations Matt!

Line 4 Segment Replacement – Nushka Lake Project
Matthew Fournier, Client Manager, United Piping Inc.
Patrick Hughley, Senior Advisor-Community Engagement, Enbridge Energy

Enbridge Energy and United Piping Inc. (UPI) recently completed a challenging pipeline relocation project in northern Minnesota. Since the original installation of Enbridge’s Line 4 pipeline in the early 1970s, the shoreline of Nushka Lake in Cass County on the Leech Lake Reservation has changed and Line 4 shifted from its original position, requiring Enbridge to relocate that segment of pipe as part of the company’s ongoing maintenance program.

The site was located on the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe (LLBO) Reservation in northern Minnesota, halfway between Bemidji and Grand Rapids. Aside from being located within the exterior boundaries of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe (LLBO) Reservation, the site was also on land owned by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Chippewa National Forest. Overall Project permitting required 14 permits acquired over a 10-month period with an extensive Public, Government and Tribal Affairs outreach plan, as well as coordination with the Enbridge Line 3 Replacement Team – the largest replacement program in Enbridge’s history with a highly visible public regulatory process. As part of the initial outreach, the Project Team proactively worked with the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and other external stakeholders to select the remediation method most favorable to all parties for a long-term remediation solution to a 1,250-foot span that had deflected as much as 27.5 feet into Nushka Lake. Key
options reviewed included a 2.25 mile pipe replacement, ¾ mile pipe replacement, horizontal directional drill and a smaller 1,200 foot pipe replacement.

UPI’s general contracting services were substantial, involving site clearing and preparation, including construction of an ice road, preparing the new piping as well as excavation and removal of the old piping. Project work also included tie-ins, hydrotesting, field coating, internal cleaning, caliper and gauging of the new pipe, and site restoration.

Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe were adamant that Enbridge keep the construction activities in the wetland from running into another year. One of the most challenging aspects of keeping a tight schedule was the 2.25-mile frost road through an expansive wetland that ultimately attained 24”-40” inches of frost and ice. The Project was expansive with temporary workspace nearing 40 acres, with approximately a quarter of it requiring tree clearing prior to pipeline work commencing. Crews worked 24-hours a day to install sheet piling and welding/stringing the replacement section. A 90 hour outage was scheduled in March at which time a 9.3 mile nitrogen purge was executed for the tie in of the replacement segment.

The removal of the 3,200 feet of existing pipeline and the challenging tie-in to the existing line made the project noteworthy unique. “This project is unique and challenging in many aspects, and UPI’s success did not come easy. We had to work in less than ideal conditions in a swampy area, relying a great deal on Mother Nature for the success of the job, specifically when it came to ice road construction and an extremely tight deadline,” said Mel Olson, President at UPI.

To meet the mid-March 2018 deadline, crews worked 24/7 beginning at the site in November 2017. “Winter pipeline work provides steady employment for many, and we were thrilled that we kept folks working when they may otherwise not have. Man hours spent on the project surpassed 105,000 hours and about 150 employees worked on the project,” Olson said.

UPI also credits the efforts of many subcontractors on the project. Firms include Deer River Trucking, Midwest Amphibious Equipment, OSI Environmental, Sheet Piling Services, Sterling Lumber, and T.D. Williamson.

In addition to the main scope of the replacement installation, the Project includes full work scopes at two separate Mainline Valves approximately 4.5 miles on either direction including, but not limited to, excavation, fitting installation and site setup for nitrogen injection and blowdown. The Team also improved the upstream Mainline valve location to bring it into compliance full installation of Pressure and Temperature transmitters as well as the removal of an obsolete crossover valve at the completion of the Project.

Above all else – the most important aspect of the Project is the renewed and strengthened relationship with the LLBO. From the initial outreach of the Project, the Project Team identified LLBO as the critical stakeholder and centerpiece of all communication. Throughout 2017 and 2018, the Project Team had over ten in-person meetings with their Department of Resource Management and Tribal Employment office. LLBO’s Resource Management office provided cultural and wild rice survey field services for the Project as well as collaboratively worked with Enbridge’s environment team throughout the permitting process. Enbridge and UPI conducted a three day “pipeline basics” training and successfully hired sixteen (16) tribal members to the Contractor’s workforce. LLBO has repeatedly stated that this Project was a trial run for the future strengthened relationship between LLBO and Enbridge.

The new pipeline segment supports safe, reliable operation for years to come.