Upgrading Minneapolis’ Natural Gas Infrastructure

This content is sponsored by Vermeer. Sponsored content is authorized by the client and does not necessarily reflect the views of COLE Publishing. View our privacy policy.
Upgrading Minneapolis’ Natural Gas Infrastructure

Interested in Drilling?

Get Drilling articles, news and videos right in your inbox! Sign up now.

Drilling + Get Alerts

After years of preparation, work on the Cedar Station Upgrade Northern Natural Gas (NNG) in Dakota County, Minnesota, was completed this past fall. Approximately 8 miles of 20-inch steel pipeline was installed around the Twin Cities suburb of Eagan. The new pipeline loops NNG’s Rosemount Junction to the Minneapolis No. 1 branch line and is part of a 14,700-mile pipeline connecting from Texas through Minnesota to upper Michigan.

The bulk of the work on the Cedar Station Upgrade project was done using horizontal directional drills — 22 bores in total. Helping with HDD installations for the project’s general contractor, Minnesota Limited, was Arizona-based HDD experts Southeast Directional Drilling (SEDD). The company’s crew performed 17 bores on the project ranging in distances from 400 to 1,700 feet.

SEDD’s Grand Rapids, Minnesota-based drill crews began working on the project in the spring of 2018 and wrapped up their part in late summer. Heading up the two crews on the job was Kyle Pellinen, general superintendent for SEDD. He said his team used a Vermeer D100x120 and D330x500 Navigator horizontal directional drill to complete the work. 

“We determined it would be more efficient to use a couple of different drills on this job,” Pellinen says. “The ground conditions were pretty sandy, so while it was a challenge to maintain the hole integrity in spots, we didn’t have to contend with much rock. On shorter bores ranging between 400 and 600 feet with an average bore depth around 30 feet, we used the Vermeer D100x120 HDD. For longer bores ranging from 1,000 to 1,700 feet, we had to bore around 50 feet deep to avoid wetlands and other environmentally sensitive areas. We stepped it up and used the Vermeer D300x500 HDD for those.” 

The part of Eagan where SEDD’s crews were working is a thriving residential area with several other utilities buried nearby. Crews surveyed the project and daylighted all existing utilities before work began, which was challenging in wetland areas and working near Interstate 35. “There were a lot of obstacles to work around on this project,” Pellinen says. “We didn’t have a clear line of sight because of all the buildings near the job site, and we were working alongside several busy roadways, including Interstate 35. We made several passes under the busy interstate without disrupting traffic.”

Sandy conditions

Having worked around the country on many large pipeline projects, SEDD’s crews are experts at making the necessary adjustment for whatever soil conditions they are facing. On this particular project, Minnesota’s sandy soils meant crews would have to take extra precautions to maintain the integrity of the bore hole, make sure they were deep under roads to mitigate sinkholes and do their best to minimize any inadvertent returns.

Dan Smith, director of project management for SEDD, says his team always reviews a bore’s geotechnical report, the bore design and any formations they might encounter before a job begins. “Taking these precautions helps ensure that a bore will be successful and won’t cause any issues in the future.”

SEDD’s crews mixed their drilling fluid thick for this project, using only bentonite and water. After each pilot bore was complete, crews used a 30-inch reamer to open the hole wider before pulling back the 20-inch pipe. Crews did have to deal with some inadvertent returns, but Smith and Pellinen both say they expected it ahead of time and their team had precautions in place to deal with them. 

“The ground was soft, and since we were going down and coming right back up on a lot of those shots, we knew we would have some frac outs,” Pellinen says. “We did our best to plan for them, so none would occur in environmentally sensitive areas, and we had silt fences installed and vac trucks onsite to deal with them quickly.” 

Finishing up and moving on

Smith says SEDD’s crews spent an average of six days on each of the shorter bores using the Vermeer D100x120 HDD, and between eight and 12 days on the longer bores where they used their Vermeer D330x500 HDD. “Our team did a great job on this project — everything went according to plan. I believe Minnesota Limited and NNG’s teams were happy with the work we did.” 

After that, SEDD’s crews moved on to the next challenging large diameter project. With a fleet of 10 maxi drills, SEDD has people working all over the country at any given moment. Eddie Ramos, director of operations for SEDD, says keeping it all organized and coordinated is a bit like a game of chess. “Gas pipeline projects tend to have a lot of moving timelines — one project gets pushed, another is delayed, and we just have to make sure we are always in a good spot to be able to have machines and people in place when work is ready to begin.” 

To be responsive to their customers’ changing schedules, every rig that SEDD sends to a project travels with everything it will need to get to work right away — drill pipe, bits, reamers and all of the accessory equipment crews will use on a job. “We do our best to make sure every rig is fully stocked, so that we don’t get in a spot where work can’t begin because another crew is borrowing something from another drill,” Ramos says. “This might mean that sometimes our crew shows up with more pipe or tooling than they need, but we believe it’s better to be over prepared than standing around waiting for something to be hauled in.” 

Investing in quality equipment and working with a responsive dealer network is another way Ramos says his team ensures they meet their customers’ needs. “We have crews working in urban and rural areas all over the country, so when we invest in a machine, we must look at a manufacturer’s dealer network coverage,” he says. “It’s a big reason why we like working with Vermeer. Our local team at Vermeer Southwest does an excellent job of giving us support in Arizona and will help connect us with the local dealership wherever our crews are working.” 

Self-sufficient crews

SEDD’s nimble approach of operating carries over to the way the company structures their crews. The crew foremen are responsible for adding employees, training and promoting them when the time is right. “Most of our management team started as laborers for the company before being promoted into the roles they are in today,” Pellinen says. “We are big believers in training our people, giving them the resources they need and promoting from within. It’s why we have such an amazing track record of retaining employees and reputation for being experts in our field. Everyone is connected to the work they are doing and do their best to perform it at a very high level.” 

Hiring the right people and creating a working environment that makes them want to stay for a long time helps drive SEDD’s reputation in the industry, which is essential for securing projects like the NNG Cedar Station Upgrade.


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.