Appalachian Pipeline Contractors

Many people visit national parks on vacation, but for employees of Appalachian Pipeline Contractors LLP, visiting a national park daily was a requirement of one of the projects. Burying pipeline in Glacier National Park on the northern edge of Montana necessitated special precautions for wildlife, such as mountain goats, deer and bears.“It was gorgeous – absolutely beautiful,” Senior Vice President Andrew Crooks says. “We were in a pretty remote area of the park – that whole park is pretty rugged and remote. We had to do special training to deal with the bears. We never really had any trouble, but we all had to be issued the cans of bear spray and be trained in what to do if a bear comes at you and so on. We also had to do a lot of fire watch in that area.”

Employees worked on a steep grade with several tack rigs and side booms. Pipe was welded on these steep slopes and then placed in position on sandbags, which were used to support the pipe and prevent scraping by rocks, which could lead to the start of corrosion. Because of the short summer in such a northern climate, the work started in June and was done by September. Crooks was onsite for the duration of the job to be responsible for the employees’ payroll and act as liaison for the all-union work force. “Basically, I was acting as the office manager,” Crooks explains. “I was right on site for the entire job. One of the things we try to do is have one of the owners who is onsite work with the client. We’re a smaller company, and it’s very important to make sure that we fully understand what’s happening.”

Short Lines
During 2010, Appalachian Pipeline Contractors LLP built or repaired pipelines in Oregon, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, North and South Carolina, and Tennessee. “Most of the work this year has been shorter-length pipelines and shorter-duration projects,” Crooks reports. “A lot of it or almost all of it is maintenance-type work, such as interconnects and loops. New construction of large-diameter, cross-country pipelines – while a fair amount of it is going on – has been awarded to larger companies. “We’re a medium-sized company,” he notes. “We have not won any really big projects in the last two years; it’s been a struggle, but we’re open to doing a lot more work.”

Crooks refers to a deadly explosion
of a PG&E natural gas pipeline last September in San Bruno, Calif. “The PG&E explosion shows how dangerous it can be if you’re not doing your maintenance on a good schedule,” Crooks points out, adding that pipeline maintenance has been a good source of business for Appalachian Pipeline Contractors.The pipelines on which the company works can carry natural gas or oil. “We do mostly natural gas work – it’s just where we have concentrated,” Crooks explains.

“But frankly, there’s very little difference in the construction welding techniques that are used between the construction of natural gas and oil pipelines. But natural gas pipelines will be subject to much higher pressures than will oil pipelines. So the steel alloys and the types of steel used are a little different.”