The first new natural gas pipeline to be built into Manhattan in more than 40 years, the New Jersey-New York Expansion Project is designed to bring customers in the region 800 MMcf/d of natural gas supplies, as well as economic and environmental benefits. Pipelines International speaks with Spectra Energy about contending with New York City’s roadways and waterways along the pipeline’s right-of-way, and the use of technology and safety features that resulted in a successful, state-of-the-art project.
Construction of the New Jersey – New York Expansion Project, an extension of Spectra Energy’s Texas Eastern and Algonquin Gas Transmission systems, began in July 2012, with the pipeline becoming commercially available on 1 November 2013.
The project consisted of the construction of approximately:
- 24 km of new 30 inch diameter pipeline;
- The replacement of approximately 8 km of 12 inch diameter and 20 inch diameter pipeline, with new 42 inch diameter pipeline;
- The construction of new meter and regulating stations; and,
- Modifications to existing facilities.
The NJ-NY Expansion Project was needed to address energy demand growth, deliver cost savings and economic value, and to address the environmental imperatives of the region. The pipeline directly benefits New Jersey, a state that will require an additional 850 MMcf/d of natural gas by 2019.
Minimising impact on residents
Spectra Energy spent the five years prior to construction speaking with stakeholders and officials, planning, designing, and constructing the pipeline, to ensure it was completed safely, efficiently, and to the highest standards.
The project team held more than 350 meetings with government officials, agencies, municipal officials, landowners, community organisations, and key stakeholders to solicit the community’s input and get a real sense as to how the pipeline could be constructed with minimal disturbance to the community.
As a result, Spectra Energy made numerous changes and designed the project route, which runs entirely through commercial and industrial areas, to avoid direct impact on residential properties. Underground construction, specifically horizontal directional drilling (HDD), allowed the company to design a pipeline route through the densely populated urban areas with minimal impact on the community. The technique also added an additional layer of safety due to the depth that the pipe is buried below the ground’s surface.
Challenges of the big city
Spectra Energy’s engineers were asked to work within limited space to reduce the impact on the community, to work co-operatively with numerous utilities and transit authorities, and to construct beneath some of the most robust commercial waterways in the world.
One-third of the pipeline route was designed using HDD technology which helped the company construct the pipeline below waterways without impeding the traffic flow on the Hudson River or the Kill Van Kull, and other critical waterways. Spectra Energy’s Kill Van Kull HDD is the longest 30 inch HDD in North American history at just over 2,469 m. Another major engineering feat was the pipeline crossing beneath the Hudson River into Manhattan.
The project was constructed within public roadways and commercial/industrial areas, and parallel to existing utility rights-of-way.
The first step for in-street construction was to co-ordinate the work with each municipal Police Department. Proper traffic control was then installed, and traffic was detoured or directed around the construction area during the installation process according to traffic-management plans filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The working area along any street was typically 244 m to 305 m long, and met the requirements of the municipal road-opening permits that were issued for the project. All construction activities were limited to the section, and the work area moved along the street as construction advanced and while normal traffic continued.
Pavement over the proposed trench was cut and removed, and the trench was then excavated using a combination of a backhoe and hand shovelling to dig around existing utilities. Once completed, the pipe was installed, welded (with each weld x-rayed for quality), and then coated with impervious material. All existing utilities that were exposed during excavation were supported at their existing elevations to avoid damage, and this support was maintained until the backfill of the pipeline trench was completed.
No trench was left unprotected overnight, as the trench was backfilled or steel plated to ensure public safety. Control density fill (CDF), also known as flowable fill, was used to fill the trench to 12 inches over the pipe. The backfill was compacted properly to roadway specifications to ensure the roadway supported the traffic load.
A successful operation
The NJ-NY Expansion Project was constructed to federal regulations and industry standards, and uses advanced, high-resistant, steel and modern safety features, including remote-control valves and the ability to use robotic in-line monitoring devices. With over three million man-hours of work, the project compiled a total recordable safety incident rate of 0.79, which is below the pipeline construction industry standard of 1.3.
“Successfully completing this pipeline is a testament to our ability to secure, permit and execute on large and complex growth projects,” explains Spectra Energy President and Chief Executive Officer Greg Ebel.
“We’ve built the first natural gas pipeline into Manhattan in more than 40 years, one that will supply the region with safe, affordable, clean, domestic natural gas. Completing this pipeline is a great accomplishment, and one in which our team can take great pride.”
A lasting effect on energy costs
Prior to the completion of this project, New Jersey residents were paying about 3.5 times more for energy than their neighbours in Pennsylvania. Natural gas produces 45 per cent less carbon dioxide than coal and 30 per cent less carbon dioxide than fuel oil, so when natural gas replaces these sources of energy, the air will be much cleaner. Spectra Energy estimates that this project will eliminate 6 MMt/a of carbon dioxide by using cleaner-burning domestic natural gas – the equivalent to taking one million cars off the road. Air pollution does not respect state boundaries – so the environmental effects of burning fuel oil in New York City make their way into New Jersey, too.
The NJ-NY Expansion Project also helps solve the regional bottleneck constraints that cause spikes in natural gas and electricity prices. The project provides enough safe, reliable energy to heat the equivalent of more than an additional two million homes per day.
“The natural gas in this pipeline will warm homes, cook food and keep businesses running in New Jersey and New York for years to come. Customers in the region could save $US700 million in energy costs each year while also replacing fuel oil with domestic and cleaner-burning natural gas,” said Spectra Energy’s President US Transmission and Storage Bill Yardley.
The tide began to turn as soon as the project commenced flowing natural gas – in fact, it began the day before it went into service. On 31 October 2013, natural gas prices in Manhattan were nearly 40 cents cheaper than in Louisiana – something that hasn’t occurred in eight years. The Spectra Energy pipeline has effectively doubled the amount of natural gas flowing into Manhattan, and lower natural gas prices should encourage a welcome shift away from fuel oil heating towards cleaner, more efficient natural gas.