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Planning and
of Pipelines


The procedure involved in the planning and construction of any new pipeline system
depends on several factors including the material (fluid or solid) to be transported
by the pipeline (whether it is natural gas, oil, water, sewage, slurry, or capsules),
the length of the pipeline, and the environment (whether the pipeline is in an urban
or countryside setting, whether it is on land or offshore, whether the climate is
warm or cold), etc. However, there are more similarities than dissimilarities in
constructing different types of pipelines. Once a person understands how a given
type of pipeline is built, it is not difficult to figure out how another type should be
built. The following is an outline of the procedure used for long-distance steel
pipelines that carry natural gas or oil:
Step 1. Preliminary planningDetermine the origin and the destination of the
pipe, the product to be transported, the approximate length, diameter and
type of the pipe to be used, the velocity of flow, headloss, power consumption, capital cost, operating expenses, economics, and many other practical
considerations. All the design and calculations done during this stage are
preliminary and approximate. Once the preliminary investigation confirms
that the pipeline project is economically feasible and practical, then the
next step is taken.
Step 2. Route selectionA pipeline route should be selected from, and marked
on, both a highway map and a topographical map such as the Quadrangle
Map of the U.S. Geological Survey. Aerial photography and surveys of the
pipeline route are undertaken to obtain data needed for the design and preparation of route maps and property plats, which are normally required for
right-of-way acquisition.
Step 3. Acquisition of right-of-wayThe acquisition of the right-of-way for a
pipeline can come either through a voluntary processnegotiation with
land owners for the purchase, lease, or easement of their land needed for
the passage of the pipeline, or through condemnation, which is an involuntary legal process. For public-owned pipelines and for pipelines that are
2003 by CRC Press LLC


Pipeline Engineering

privately owned that serve the public, the state and federal governments
grant the right of eminent domain, which is a legal term for the right to
condemn land. Landowners who lose their land through condemnation are
normally compensated at a fair market value. For interstate pipelines that
must cross railroads many times, it is difficult to build such pipelines without cooperation from railroads. The railroad industry in the U.S. has traditionally disallowed pipelines to cross railroads, especially pipelines that
carry freight in competition with railroads. The U.S. Congress has granted
eminent domain to interstate pipelines that carry natural gas and oil, but
has not yet granted the same to coal pipelines, or pipelines that transport
other solids. The matter remains controversial in the U.S. due to strong
lobbying efforts by the rail industry against such legislation. The lack of
eminent domain discourages investment in and commercial use of freight
pipelines in the U.S., depriving the public of the benefits of freight pipelines.
Step 4. Soil borings, testing of soil and other data collectionOnce the acquisition of the right-of-way has been completed, the pipeline developer can
undertake necessary geotechnical investigations and determine whether
groundwater and/or hard rock will be encountered, and collect other data
along the route that are needed for the design of the pipeline.
Step 5. Pipeline designTo be discussed in Chapter 13.
Step 6. Seek legal permitsPermits from different state and federal agencies
may be needed, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S.
Forestry Service (if the pipeline crosses federal forest), U.S. Department
of Transportation (for pipelines that carry hazardous fluids such as petroleum or natural gas), etc.
Step 7. Start constructionThe construction of pipeline involves the following
a. Right-of-way preparationFor large pipelines, this may involve clearing a path of a minimum width of 50 ft (15 m), and removing trees and
flattening the path somewhat so that trucks and heavy equipment can
be brought in.
b. StringingBringing in the pipe and setting the pipe in a line along one
side of the right of waystringing.
c. Ditching and trenchingUse hydraulic backhoes or some other equipment to dig ditches or trenches of rectangular or trapezoidal cross section. The depth of the ditch (trench) should be such that the pipe will be
below the frostline or at least 3 ft (1 m) beneath the land surface, whichever is greater. Staying below the frostline prevents damage to the pipe
by freezing and thawing of the ground; it is especially important for
pipelines that convey water. Even in a nonfreezing climate, major pipelines should be at least about 3 ft (1 m) underground to reduce the chance
of damage from human activities, such as plowing and land leveling.
Two problems often encountered in ditching (trenching) are groundwater and hard rock. They should be avoided during the route selection
step of the process whenever possible and practical.

2003 by CRC Press LLC

Planning and Construction of Pipelines


d. BoringWhen passing through obstacles such as a highway, railroad,

or rivers, boring may be used to get the pipe across the obstacle from
underneath. Modern boring machines can bore long holes to install pipes
under rivers and other obstacles. Boring methods will be discussed in
more detail in Section 12.5.
e. TunnelingNeeded for crossing mountains or hills.
f. River crossingThree methods for river crossing are ditching (i.e.,
cutting a ditch in riverbed and then burying the pipeline there), bridging (i.e., building a new bridge or utilizing an existing bridge to carry
the pipeline across a river), and boring (i.e., boring a hole underneath
the riverbed and then pulling a pipe through). For wide rivers of shallow water, ditching often proves to be the most economical. However,
recent advances in horizontal directional drilling (HDD) have greatly
enhanced the technical and economic feasibility of drilling and boring
across rivers to lay pipes (see Section 12.5).
g. Welding, coating, and wrappingAfter the ditch has been prepared,
steel pipes of 40-ft length (12m) are welded together to form a long
line or string. The welded joints are radiographically inspected, and
the pipeline is coated and wrapped with special protective and insulating materials before being laid in the ditch. For pipelines laid underwater, the pipe must be covered with a thick layer of concrete to prevent
the pipe from floating. Welding is discussed in more detail in Section
h. Pipe layingThe welded pipeline is lifted and laid into the ditch by a
line of side-booms parked along the right of way at approximately equal
intervals. Steel pipes normally do not require the use of bedding materials to support the pipes in the ditch. Iron and concrete pipes require
that the ditch bottom be covered by a layer of gravel or crushed rock to
facilitate drainage and reduce settling. Otherwise, such pipes may be
damaged and may leak.
i. Backfill and restoration of landThe pipe in the ditch is then backfilled by earth, the earth is then compacted, and the land surface is restored. After the pipe is backfilled, it is hydrostatically tested with water to meet applicable code and government requirements. Restoration
involves cleaning out construction waste materials and planting of
For a long pipeline, the foregoing procedure is applied to a portion of the pipeline
(say, a few miles) at a time. After the portion is completed, the same procedure is
applied to the next portion. In so doing, disruption to the community at each place
along the pipeline will be limited to a few weeks. Major pipelines in the U.S. have
been built rather rapidlycompleting more than 1 mi per working day per crew.
For extra-long pipelines, more than one crew can be used simultaneously to shorten
the construction period.

2003 by CRC Press LLC