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theroads Crossing 66 www. bus- ex. com August 09

to provide the most economical solution to VNG, and we worked closely with their project team to match our capabilities with the final scope of work. Initially it was planned to have three directionally drilled segments in the harbor crossing, one under the shipping channel and two shore approaches. The remainder of the crossing would be placed in trenches and bolted up to the drilled segments. However, environmental concerns and an active ship anchorage zone that crossed over the pipeline's alignment led to the final plan of five drilled segments and one trenched portion in the harbor. The separate Elizabeth River crossing, in addition to being a world- record length drill for 24- inch steel pipe, had to be completed within a fixed three- month time window to avoid impacting student activities at Old Dominion University." The route of the harbor pipeline goes from Anderson Park in Newport News down to the northwest corner of Craney Island, almost paralleling the Monitor- Merrimac Memorial Bridge- Tunnel that spans the harbor as well. Craney Island, a squarish manmade peninsula off Portsmouth used as a dredged material disposal site by the US Army Corps of Engineers, played an essential supporting role in the construction, as it provided the staging area for Weeks' subcontractor, Bradford Brothers, Inc., to weld together the multiple strings of pipe that were rolled, floated and pulled off its shoreline or over to the Elizabeth River. Horizontal directional drilling ( HDD) is commonplace in the gas, petroleum and utility industries, but the demands of this project broke new ground for Mears Group, Inc., Weeks' principal subcontractor on the project and one of the world's largest and most capable HDD contractors. Mears started the project with a short 900- foot drill under the Lambert's Point Golf Course in Norfolk but quickly moved to the demanding 7,357- foot record-length drill under the Elizabeth River. " Coordinating the concerns of the property owners, the tight schedule and the technical challenges that Mears Weeks Marine W hen Dominion Resources upgraded its Cove Point LNG facilities in Lusby, Maryland, four years ago, it was able to offer an increased allotment of gas to its customer Virginia Natural Gas ( VNG), which services more than 264,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers in Southeastern Virginia. As one of the fastest-growing natural gas distribution companies in the country, VNG was pleased to secure this extra gas from its northern supplier for its expanding user base, but it didn't have a link between its north and south pipeline systems, divided geographically by the James River estuary. To ensure all its customers would benefit from the additional supply, VNG committed to build a new 21- mile- long, 24- inch- diameter gas distribution pipeline from Newport News in the north through Portsmouth to Norfolk on the south. So far it sounds like a straightforward, even pedestrian infrastructure project. However, a look at the map makes it much more interesting, because the route of the pipeline takes it across Hampton Roads, one of the world's largest natural harbors and a major hub of commercial and naval maritime activity on the Atlantic coast. Crossing the four- mile- wide harbor and then passing the pipe again under the Elizabeth River was a job for a specialist, so it is not surprising the contract for the marine segment of the project was awarded to Weeks Marine, one of the leading marine construction and dredging companies in the United States. With 90 years of experience behind it and a history of successfully completed pipeline projects along the coasts of the US, as well as in Central and South America, the Caribbean and the South Pacific, Weeks was the right choice, though getting those key lengths of pipe in place still presented its share of challenges, says vice president Rick Palmer. " This was a unique project," he says. " We tried August 09 www. bus- ex. com 67 It may have needed a record bore, but installing a pipeline across Hampton Roads in Virginia is far from boring; in fact, it's quite an adventure story about a major feat of engineering and cooperation among specialized professionals. John O'Hanlon hears it from Rick Palmer, vice president of Weeks Marine