By Dave Gragg
A wheel ditcher digs a trench more than 5 feet deep as another crew a couple of miles down the line puts 42-foot sections of pipe next to the trench.
Behind the pipe-stringing crew, another crew bends the pipe joints so they match the profile of the ground and fits into the trench.
Behind them, a third crew lines up the joints. The first weld connecting the joints is the stringer bead. After that comes a hot pass that puts more metal and begins finishing the job.
The final two welders are the cappers, and each one takes one side of the pipe.
“Our job is to come up behind, putting on more metal than the others,” said Brent Gamblin, a welding instructor at Mesalands Community College who is also working on “firing line,” a term given to the welding crews.
The firing line is about four miles behind the ditch digger.
After the welding is finished, an X-ray crew checks a sample of the welds.
“It’s almost an orchestra,” said Rick Partain, who is in charge of the pipeline for CKG Energy Inc. “There’s a lot to it.”
The whole crew moves more than a mile a day and is about half finished with the 27.6-mile pipeline.
“It doesn’t sound like a long pipe until you drive down the Interstate at 70 mph and it takes half an hour to get from one end to the other,” Partain said.
Once the joints are connected, crews will go back through and put the pipe into the trench, then cover it.
Federal regulations say the pipeline must be buried at least three feet deep, but CKG plans on burying the pipe closer to three feet deep, Partain said.
The pipe is 12 inches wide and a quarter-inch thick with an epoxy fused to the metal to help prevent corrosion.
The pipeline should be finished by June 20, he said.
In the meantime, the project is bringing in nearly 100 people from outside of Quay County to work on the pipeline, plus local contractors, Partain said.
“It takes a lot of equipment, a lot of peole to mess with 12-inch pipe,” he said.
Before the pipe crews could start, CKG had to clear a 40-foot right of way halfway across the county.
Partain said the right of way had the added benefit of giving firefighters more access to land if they needed it — the only other route to Montoya is Interstate 40.