How are pipelines built?

Pipelines cannot be constructed overnight, and the entire construction process can take up to 18 months.

Natural gas pipelines are constructed in response to the evolving supply and demand dynamics of the natural gas market.  In order to construct an interstate pipeline, a company must receive authorization from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or Commission), which includes a determination that there is a need for the facility and a thorough review of the proposed pipeline route and the environmental impacts associated with the proposed facilities.

Before construction can begin, the company must obtain legal rights to the land along the proposed route, called a right-of-way, from landowners.

 

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Construction in Progress

A pipeline construction project looks much like a moving assembly line.  A large project typically is broken into manageable lengths called “spreads,” and utilizes highly specialized and qualified workgroups.  Each spread is composed of various crews, each with its own responsibilities. The tasks include:

Steps in the constructions process:

  1. Clearing, grading and trenching
  2. Stringing and welding pipe segments together  
  3. Depositing the pipeline, backfilling and testing
  4. Restoration


As one crew completes its work, the next crew moves into position to complete its piece of the construction process.  Each spread may be 30 to 100 miles in length, with the front of the spread clearing the right-of-way and the back of the spread restoring the right-of-way.