Wood assures quality of a unique Colombia pipeline project
The vast majority of oil and natural gas pipelines are buried underground. Often the pipelines transport the hydrocarbons under roads, railroads and highway systems. One exception is the Alyeska pipeline across Alaska, which travels mainly above ground, parallel to transportation routes. In the case of a necessary modification to the Oleoducto Central (OCENSA) pipeline in the middle of Colombia we faced a number of distinct challenges.
The existing OCENSA system extends northward from the productive Cusiana-Cupiaga oilfields in the nation’s midsection to the marine terminal at Coveῆas on the Caribbean. On its route, the 830 km (515 mile) pipeline must pass through the mountainous terrain of the Andean Cordillaris range. The pipeline is vital to the nation’s economy, transporting more than 60% of Colombia’s crude oil production for in-country consumption and export. Colombia is currently engaged in construction plans for a fourth generation (4G) four-lane highway system project designed to vastly improve the country’s commercial transport and infrastructure for development. A major part of its intended route will travel between the cities of Remedios and Zaragoza through the same tortuous topography and transect the existing OCENSA pipeline.
While most of the intersections between the planned highway and pipeline can accommodate both without interruption and with the roadway crossing above the pipeline route, there are four crossings that require the pipelines to cross over the intended highway’s path. Assessing that feasibility is where the expertise of Wood comes in.
In each of those four instances, a section of the pipeline must be supported by a bridge. The dimensions of the four bridges vary from 20 meters (65 feet) to 46 meters (130 feet) in width and have an average span of 22 meters (70 feet). The mountainous slopes to which they abut can be as steep as 36 degrees, and the clearance is approximately seven meters (22 feet) above the roadway. The design and complexity of the project required significant planning and engineering.
Wood was contracted to provide the necessary stress and technical analyses to assure the quality during the construction phase and for ongoing operations. In assessing the planned performance of the bridge structure itself, Wood incorporated industry codes for everything related to the project - highway construction, hazardous liquid pipelines specifications, cathodic protection and corrosion, and safety measures related to pipeline/highway crossings. In addition to compliance with Colombia regulations, Wood engineers relied on their vast pipeline and civil engineering experience with stringent U.S. requirements, generally considered to be the industry standards. Supported by Wood’s analysis and verification, the project is currently proceeding to schedule. The bridges are scheduled for completion later this year.
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Reproduced from Inspired Issue 2 2017