A major issue for agriculture land used to be sunken ditches or depressions that were often caused by pipeline installation. The problem cost time and money to both repair farm equipment and, more significantly, repair the land itself. Devon Construction and Facilities Engineering Manager Marc LaBerge wanted to find a way to do the work right the first time while building better relationships with the farming community.
LaBerge and his crew began experimenting with new ways to lessen the pipeline impression on agriculture land and develop a better relationship with the community. What they found was the technique didn’t have to be complicated; it just took ingenuity, a positive attitude and buy-in from all the stakeholders involved.
“We started with something as simple as getting all the dirt back in the trench line,” LaBerge said. “That opened additional avenues for innovation.”
The traditional way of pipelining trenches required large amounts of topsoil to be stripped to house the spoils from a 3- to 4-foot trench that is dug to house only a 3- to 6-inch pipe. The new approach minimizes the size of the trench, sometimes as much as 75 percent, which reduces the amount of topsoil to be stripped as much as 95 percent and reduces how much subsoil has to be compacted. The subsoil is compacted with specially built compaction equipment, which is one of the keys to re-stabilizing the soil and eliminating the risk of sunken ditches.
Innovative Pipeline Strategies (IPS) requires less topsoil disturbance, smaller right of ways, slimmer bucket design to dig narrow trenches, and reduced clean-up costs. Additionally, it reduces downtime for both industry and farmers — less crop damage, spring clean-up and future repairs
After piloting this method on several projects, IPS has become standard procedure. It was time to begin testing the approach on forested lands, which achieved even higher reductions on overall impacts to the environment.
Now, IPS has come back full circle to agricultural lands with the newest innovation – trenchless pipelining, which causes basically zero disturbance. LaBerge said the new trenchless process is done through horizontal directional drilling, technology which established its roots through horizontal well drilling.
“In 2011, we very successfully and very economically built 5.5 kilometers of trenchless pipeline; this quarter we are well on our way to completing over 33 kilometers,” he said. “We can get runs as long as a kilometer.”