Thursday, July 11, 2013

My pipeline survey visit to Big Morongo Canyon Preserve. Plus background info.

As promised, I made bit up to BMCP yesterday where I hiked down the Canyon trail to marker 1.5 mile, in an attempt to follow the existing pipeline and to get a feel for what has been done here in the past and may be done in the near future.

I also got proof that the Questar Southern Trails pipeline runs smack down the middle of the preserve.
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The above sign is along the Canyon Trail before the one mile point. Nearby along the trail, I saw this chilling sign below.
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This is a sign for the Four Corners Pipeline Company in Long Beach stating that there is a petroleum pipeline in the area.
More on this development down the page.

I came across 2 places along the trail where the pipeline is exposed, here is one below. I believe it is near the 1/2 mile mark. It looked like it was a 6 or 8 inch diameter pipe.
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Understand that if the addition of the oil pipeline is approved, the 16 inch pipeline would be laid alongside this one.

I thought it was horrendous news finding that oil pipeline warning sign. This
morning I did further research and discovered the real story. In around 2002 Questar asked for permission to convert their oil pipeline to gas and it was done. So the pipeline in the picture above, built to ship crude, now ships natural gas. Questar undertook the conversion to help supply gas to California utilities during one of the energy crunches that we periodically endure here.

So we have two different gas pipelines running underground through Big Morongo Canyon and now they would like to add an oil pipeline. I had questions about how it would be built, what was involved including pumping station infrastructure and so I reached out to one of the pre-eminent internet forums for petroleum engineers. Here below is the correspondence from yesterday, starting with my original post.
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2 replies
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This morning I have placed calls to SoCalGas, the media contact person at the California Energy Commission and Rick Aragon who is the area manager for Questar. Hopefully I will get more information from one of these contacts to put a little meat upon the bones of the skeleton. I plan to delve more into the CEC website to see if they have any info there regarding this pipeline for Questar and the gas company one. By the way, the lady at the number for excavating on the gas company sign did say that there pipeline is a different one, so there are 2 pipelines there.

I discovered that the pipelines split near the south end of the marsh and one leg heads toward the hills alongside the Yucca Ridge Trail and the other goes along the other side of the marsh and runs underneath that trail with the old car wreck on it- which path is Questar’s? That is a big question to get answered and I hope to hear from Mr. Aragon soon.

What BigInch said above is chilling about a 75’ temporary right of way and is inline with the photos from the other day showing the pipelaying heavy equipment in action. It will devastate certain areas of the canyon, damage that will last for decades. To build this oil pieline will require that the dirt road that has been bladed up the canyon to the 1.5 mile point, to continue all the way along the length of the pipeline, meaning it will have to go into the main part of the preserve itself. There are 2 separate wooded areas that will have the road going right through them, no way around that. There must be a road so that technicians can inspect and repair leaks if necessary. Here is an example.
ScreenHunter_08 Jul. 11 10.35
In the scene above, the pipeline cuts through the woods to the trail in the distance- all of this would be cleared for the 75’ needed to get the heavy equipment in to lay the 16” pipe.

One possible scenario is that the oil pipeline might diverge from the gas line and be routed along the opposite side of the canyon where it widens near the wooden fence. This would avoid the environmentally sensitive marsh area but would put it near Bighorn country. And as said earlier, a dirt road along there would be necessary. There is always a pipeline road, never seen one without one in all my time driving and walking in the deserts.

I will update this post when and if I get call backs from those I contacted. I also will do more drilling into the CEC website for details.

On a personal note, from my experience with the BrightSource Ivanpah project, it pays to get involved early, the earlier the better. Questar goes to great pains to say that no decision has been made with this but the bottom line is that they make money off crude oil and natural gas being shipped through their network of pipelines. The route through the Morongo Basin is already in place and my guess is that would be the preferred route. They are already there. So we need to get all the info we can now and start the process of helping people make up their minds. We had better start doing it now because as we found out, the public relations departments at these companies are pretty good at getting their side of the story out which always goes like this- jobs, jobs, jobs!
Watch an oil pipeline construction here.

I will also contact a few people via email and alert them to this new development as well. You can help by sending the link for this post to anyone that you think might be interested in stopping the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve from being “keystoned.”