KENAI — A directional drill rig is tunneling into the ground along Bridge Access road where it will run underneath the Kenai River and connect a portion of the four-mile pipeline that Enstar Natural Gas Company began laying in February.
Workers with Arizona-based Southeast Directional Drilling worked on Tuesday to run the drill and make way for a pipeline which will connect the Cook Inlet Natural Gas Storage Alaska facility, or CINGSA, and Enstar’s transmission pipeline.
The project is expected to be completed in June, said Enstar communication manager Lindsay Hobson. She said about 700 feet of pipe has been laid since workers began putting pipe in the ground last week.
Hobson said that the portion of the pipeline following Kenai’s Bridge Access Road is on schedule, including an approximately 3,000-foot section that will pass beneath the Kenai River.
The river underpass segment, which will lie 20 feet below the bed of the Kenai was scheduled to begin drilling on Monday.
Hobson estimated that about a dozen pieces of equipment would be used in the pipeline construction, including excavators digging the pipeline trench and the drill that will be tunneling beneath the river.
Enstar originally planned to transport these machines through the wetlands surrounding Bridge Access on an ice road, but the warmer-than-usual winter has not allowed for it.
Instead, a temporary road has been constructed from wooden mats.
“It’s a different technique to achieve the same result of protecting the wetlands,” Hobson said. “Overall, it’s certainly more cumbersome for the construction process because we have more limited mobility. We have roughly half the amount of space for the staging and moving in that area as we did with the ice road. Also, we need different equipment to pick up the mats and move them, and at the end of that phase of construction to collect them. The ice road would have just thawed naturally.”
Hobson said that although the new pipeline will eliminate a tariff that Enstar previously paid to transmit gas through a third-party line, she was unable to say how it would affect Enstar’s rates. “It’s too speculative to say,” Hobson said. “That answer’s just not knowable at this point in time.”
Hobson said that the construction along Bridge Access Road is likely to finish in May, with construction along Kalifornsky Beach Road continuing until June.
Ben Boettger is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion.