A complicated pipeline repair project was recently completed at the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) helium plant in Texas, US.

The plant turnaround was initially scheduled for June 2016 but had to be pushed back to October due to unexpected market dynamics resulting in a shortage of helium supply.

Restoration work at the site in Amarillo included installing a new above ground header and carrying out a de-bottlenecking operation at the plant’s pig launcher.

The new above ground header was installed at the Cliffside natural gas meter building, replacing an old 90-foot length of 8-inch underground pipe that had been leaking in at least two locations. The header is connected to 19 gas field pipelines, combining them into one stream before entering the plant.

The old underground header began leaking more than two years ago in September 2014. As the leak was slowly getting larger with time, the repair urgency was a major driver to complete the repairs as soon as possible, with its new location above ground resulting in reduced corrosion and easier maintenance.

The contractors also carried out a de-bottlenecking operation at the pig launcher, around 100 feet north of the header. Pigging is the use of pipeline inspection gauges – or ‘pigs’ – to perform various maintenance operations.

The task involved removing the pig launcher along with its associated valves and constrictions, aiming to improve flow to the plant and reduce the pressure drop to improve the overall operation of the plant.

Ahead of schedule

The plant shut down on 15th October, 2016, with the new piping welded, tested and de-isolated by the 19th – four days ahead of the re-planned schedule. The gas wells were returned to production the next day.

Alex Chau, General Engineer BLM Amarillo Field Office, Helium Operations, said that the success of the project lay with the experience and the skill of the contractors. He said, “They helped to minimise purging and welding time without compromising safety or quality.”

“The quick and efficient installation was also a result of preparation and coordination between contractors and Cliffside staff before and throughout the week of the shutdown to minimise downtime in between each phase of the installation,” he added.

The work was completed by REDD Engineering and Construction, Inc. and its subcontractor Barclay Mechanical.

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