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The remaining portion of the Keystone pipeline project, if completed, will be fewer than 1,200 miles long — just a fraction of the existing 2.6 million miles of oil and gas pipelines running beneath our feet in the United States.
But the pipeline, which would stretch from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf of Mexico, is at the center of a years-long, contentious debate among politicians, energy companies and environmentalists.
A Senate vote approving completion of the pipeline is scheduled for Tuesday — less than one week after the House approved the same legislation. That means President Obama may soon have a chance to sign off on the pipeline — or to veto it.
Before Tuesday's vote, here are a few things to help you make sense of the Keystone XL debate:
How much of the pipeline is completed, and what will it do?
About 40 percent of the total project has been built so far, in two segments: a 298-mile stretch from Steele City, Neb., to Cushing, Okla., and a 485-mile segment between Cushing and Nederland, Texas. Oil is flowing through these pipelines from the increased production currently happening in the middle of the U.S.
Proposed And Existing TransCanada Pipelines
Proposed And Existing TransCanada Pipelines
Credit: Stephanie d'Otreppe and Alyson Hurt / NPR
The remaining segment, if approved, would run between Alberta and Steele City. If fully completed, the Keystone XL pipeline would be able to move up to 830,000 barrels a day of crude from Canada's oil sands south to the U.S. Gulf Coast. There, refineries would process it into gasoline and other fuels.
Opponents argue that some of that crude would be exported, but TransCanada, the company building the pipeline, says that wouldn't make financial sense. Alberta estimates it has the third-largest proven oil reserves in the world after Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. But that oil is valuable only if producers can get it to a market where it can be sold. A pipeline is the least expensive way for the industry to do that.
What are the environmental concerns?
Producing crude from oil sands emits an estimated 17 percent more greenhouse gases than traditional oil drilling in the U.S. In part, that's because it has to be heated to separate the crude from the sand.
Earlier this year, the State Department released an environmental review that concluded the Keystone XL very likely wouldn't have a significant effect on greenhouse gas emissions because the oil will ultimately be produced, even if the pipeline is not built. But environmental groups object to that conclusion and want the oil left in the ground.
How many jobs would the pipeline create, and where?
The State Department estimates the construction phase would create about 42,000 direct and indirect jobs and generate about $2 billion in earnings in the U.S. Opponents dispute some of those numbers. One thing is clear: Once construction is finished in about two years, the pipeline would create only about 50 new permanent jobs.
Where does President Obama stand on the pipeline?
The president has unusual leverage over this pipeline. Because it crosses the U.S. border with Canada, Keystone XL requires a "presidential permit." Obama has guarded that power jealously. Three years ago, when Congress tried to force him to make a decision by issuing a 60-day deadline, he simply rejected the permit application.
The political challenge for Obama is that Democrats are genuinely divided on the issue, with construction unions favoring the project and some environmental activists opposing it. No matter what he decides, some constituents will be unhappy — so the president has basically stalled.
If the legislation passes the Senate Tuesday and becomes law, the pipeline would get an immediate green light.
Why was there a State Department review of the project, and what is its status?
The State Department was required to conduct an environmental assessment of the final, proposed leg of the pipeline because it will cross the U.S.-Canada border.
The State Department is waiting for the outcome of a Nebraska Supreme Court case that could affect the pipeline's route, but the department's basic environmental review was completed in January.
It concluded that the pipeline would have "little impact" on the price consumers pay for gasoline in the U.S. It also concluded that blocking the pipeline would reduce income for tar sands developers, "but not enough to curtail most oil sands growth plans or to shut-in existing production." Reviewers cautioned that blocking the pipeline could have a bigger effect on tar sands development if oil prices drop into the $65- to $75-per-barrel range. Oil prices have fallen recently to around $75 per barrel.
What is the legal challenge in Nebraska and how could it affect the pipeline?
The court battle is over where the pipeline will be located. An early proposed route through the environmentally sensitive Sand Hills region was widely criticized. But after the pipeline company TransCanada changed the route, Republican Gov. Dave Heineman approved it.
Pipeline opponents have argued before the state Supreme Court that the governor did not have the authority to approve the new route. They say that under Nebraska law, only the state Public Service Commission can approve it. Justices are expected to announce their ruling in coming months.
What are the alternatives to the pipeline?
There are other pipelines that can move oil sands crude (including a controversial plan by the company Enbridge), but there's not enough capacity for all the oil being produced in Alberta. Producers in Canada are pursuing transporting oil sands by rail cars, even though it's more expensive than moving it by pipeline.
That becomes even less attractive as world oil prices fall, however. Crude from oil sands is some of the most expensive oil to produce in the world. When the extra cost of moving it by rail is added on, some producers will find it difficult to make money.
Why plastic piping? by David A. Chasis
wo major criteria for purchasing a car
or for that matter any non-commodity
product are performance and cost. These
should be the exact same parameters
when choosing piping systems — performance
and cost. Yet in the piping
mythology, adhered to by some unscientific
and myopic agenda activists, these
two major factors are laid aside or treated
as insignificant. Maybe the reason for the
activist’s illogical conclusions is due to
the Western World’s need to bash or find
fault with any hugely successful, company,
product or celebrity. Certainly this
could be a major reason for all the negativity
in recognizing the unbelievable
revolutionary success of thermoplastic piping
during the last 40 years.
Throughout the world, polyvinyl chloride
(PVC), polyethylene (PE), polypropylene
(PP), chlorinated polyvinyl chloride
(CPVC), cross-linked polyethylene (PEX),
acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) and
polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) piping systems
have made tremendous inroads in
such applications as residential and commercial
drain/waste/vent, hot and cold
water distribution, chemical processing,
acid waste draining, irrigation systems,
fire sprinkler systems, swimming pools,
T well casing, natural gas distribution and
several others. So why in just four decades
have plastics overtaken metal, asbestoscement
and clay pipe in many applications?
Right, you guessed it — performance
Let me explain. (cont.)
complete program only $49.95 USD
The Nine Secrets of Estimating
Don L. Short, II, FCPEReprinted with permission of the
American Society of Professional Estimators
The construction industry has a myth going around. The myth is that there is a secret to estimating. Well, the myth is misleading; there are actually nine secrets to estimating! I am about to divulge to you these nine secrets. As a part of this, I am breaking a decades-long, perhaps eons long, silence as to the true secrets of successful estimates. Let the reader beware of the remainder of this article - it may cause you to question other myths in your life!
FIRST SECRETThe first secret to be divulged is the importance of the takeoff process in a successful estimate. A successful estimate has its foundation in a reliable identification of the quantities involved in the project. Just like a house, if the foundation is no good the house will fall. It does not matter if the estimate is a feasibility level estimate or a bid level estimate, the quantities identified must be correct for the project.
When preparing a feasibility estimate, care must be taken to identify all of the major and minor cost items in the project scope. Whether on a square footage basis (or other parametric method), or a method that uses material quantities, if you do not identify all of the scope you cannot begin to develop a reliable budget. For example, a general guide for building construction would be to use the CSI sixteen division format at levels 1 and 2 for a scope review during the quantity takeoff period. In the concrete division (level 1), one could identify the need for concrete on the project. Once this has been identified, sub-sections (level 2) could be refined further to consider items such as pile caps, continuous and pad footings, grade beams, slabs on grade, elevated slabs and equipment or housekeeping pads. By considering these areas within each of the divisions, a series of quantities can be established that will form a firm foundation for a reliable estimate.
When preparing a bid level estimate, care must be taken to identify not only labor and material cost items shown on the plans, but also labor and cost items that may not be reflected on the plans. For example, on a plumbing or piping system it is not good enough to only count the linear feet of pipe by size and material type, number, sizes and types of fittings, valves and hangers, etc. An estimator needs to consider the impact of specifications concerning testing, inspection and start-up activities along with the location of the work. This necessitates preparing the estimate by system and, perhaps, by area of the facility. Each system would contain its own listing of materials to aid in determining the amount of time and materials for testing and related. By identifying the systems, a reasonably detailed schedule and control budget can be developed for the construction period without a large amount of time wasted in their preparation.
Will the takeoff be perfect? "No." There are too many variables to make any takeoff perfect. However, it will be very reliable whether it is at the feasibility or bid phase of the project because the scope of the project has been identified. That is the first secret of estimating. No one company has a lock on this secret; all of the successful firms know one of the secrets to a successful project is having a reliable takeoff.
SECOND SECRETThe second secret is the importance of using labor man-hours in the estimate. Labor hours, whether developed by crew analysis or applied on a unit man-hour basis, form another basic part of the foundation of a successful project. The use of a labor dollar per unit of work (ex: $15 per cubic yard for grade beams or $20 per cubic yard for walls) is only applicable when the cost history supports the data being used. For example, the geographic location is the same, the rate of inflation is the same, the other project conditions are the same. or in the early estimates such as a feasibility estimate where a decent cost history exists for the proposed application.
A lot of firms may think their man-hours are a secret, but this is not the case. The project conditions (size, location, accessibility, material sizes and types, erection equipment, etc.) play a major factor in the determination of the applicable man-hours to be used in an estimate. What is lesser known, but somewhat acknowledged, is that time and motion studies show that under specific conditions a skilled person can perform only so much work efficiently in a given day. This is typically expressed in a value range such as 100 to 120 units installed in a typical work period. Time and motion studies also will show under certain circumstances more total time can be required for one person to perform the work rather than two persons working together on the item of work.
Projects with incidental amounts of overtime will not incur any significant productivity adjustments. Projects with extended periods of 50, 60 or more hours per week will incur substantial losses in productivity. A second and/or third shift will also incur productivity penalties.
The labor force for a given project will only perform within certain ranges of time for specific tasks and the overall project. An experienced estimator that is applying the man-hours will be able to judge the conditions that affect the worker productivity on the site for each item in the estimate. In essence, preparing a range estimate of time on each item contained in the estimate.
Will the man-hour determination be perfect? "No." There are too many variables to make any man-hour determination perfect. If one wants perfect man-hours, let the accountant tally them after the completion of the project (but then it is too late). No one company has a lock on this secret; all of the successful firms know one of the secrets to a successful project is having a reliable determination made of the hours required to perform the work.
THIRD SECRETThe third secret to be revealed is the hourly rate for craft labor. A sub-secret to this is the hourly rate for staff labor and it has similar principals. The labor rate is the cost per hour for the craftsmen on the project.
To determine any craft rate, whether union or open shop, the estimator starts with the basic wages and fringe benefits. However, this is just the starting point. To the wages and fringes, the estimator needs to add what are commonly called payroll burdens. These burdens are FICA (Social Security), FUI (Federal Unemployment Insurance), SUI (State Unemployment Insurance), WC (Worker Compensation) and others mandated by legislation and/or company operations. These burdens, plus the base wages and fringe benefits, determine the hourly cost of a craft classification (ex: a Carpenter, Pipefitter, etc.).
From the point of having the individual craft classification, the estimator typically needs to develop a crew rate. A crew rate can consist of a number of journeymen, a foreman and/or a general foreman or variations on this hierarchy. In this crew there could be ten journeymen, one foreman and an allocation of a quarter of a general foreman in the mix. A variable to this mix is that the foreman and general foreman may or may not be what is termed a "working" member of the crew.
In select cases, where someone is being unrealistically optimistic on hourly costs, there may be ten "apprentices" and one journeyman as the crew. This is unrealistic in that the lowered productivity of the "apprentices" offsets any gains in the hourly rates used in the estimate. If you don't believe this one, check out how to train people effectively on the job; it is not a ten to one ratio. Training an estimator is more of a two or three on one (skilled to beginner) ratio.
The hourly rate can also involve a mixed crew where a mix of different crafts for a work crew for the performance of the work. In a case such as this, there may be a crew that is comprised of six carpenters with four laborers providing support to the carpenters. It may be a case where there is an operator and a laborer working together.
Overtime or the lack of overtime is another consideration in determining the calculation of the hourly rates. A project that is scheduled for completion using a forty hour work week (watch out for areas that have a standard 35 hour week!) will have a modest amount, if any, of overtime costs required in the estimate. A project that is scheduled for extended 50, 60 or even 70 hour work weeks will have a substantial amount included for overtime and loss of productivity.
Will the hourly labor rate determination be perfect? Again, the answer is "No." No one company has a lock on this secret; all of the successful firms know one of the secrets to a successful project is having a reliable determination made of the hourly rates required to perform the work.
FOURTH SECRETThe fourth secret concerns material prices. It is a simple secret, with a potentially complex variable. The secret is material prices go up and down. The complex part is the frequency and extent of the price curves.
Prices are affected by timing of the buying cycle. Does the purchase coincide with a peak or off time of the year for the manufacturer? This equates to demand. It also depends upon the size of the order. Will this be for one standard widget or one thousand custom widgets? The delivery requirements also affect the price. If an item with a ten week delivery time frame is needed in two or three weeks, get ready to pay a big premium. Payment terms on previous purchases also affect prices. (cont.)
Unlike orthographics, piping isometrics allow the pipe to be drawn in a manner by which the length, width and depth are shown in a single view. Isometrics are usually drawn from information found on a plan and elevation views. The symbols that represent fittings, Valves and flanges are modified to adapt to the isometric grid. Usually, piping isometrics are drawn on preprinted paper, with lines of equilateral triangles form of 60°.
The Iso, as isometric are commonly referred, is oriented on the grid relative to the north arrow found on plan drawings. Because iso's are not drawn to scale, dimensions are required to specify exact lengths of piping runs.
Pipe lengths are determined through calculations using coordinates and elevations. Vertical lengths of pipe are calculated using elevations, while horizontal lengths are caculated using north-south and east-west coordinates.
Piping isometrics are generally produced from orthographic drawings and are important pieces of information to engineers. In very complex or large piping systems, piping isometrics are essential to the design and manufacturing phases of a project.
Piping isometrics are often used by designers prior to a stress analysis and are also used by draftsmen to produce shop fabrication spool drawings. Isometrics are the most important drawings for installation contractors during the field portion of the project.
Selection criteria for lines subject to comprehensive stress analysis
As a general guidance, a line shall be subject to comprehensive stress analysis if it falls into any of the following categories:
• All lines at design temperature above 180C.
• 4" NPS and larger at design temperature above 130°C.
• 16" NPS and larger at design temperature above 105°C.
• All lines which have a design temperature below -30°C provided that the difference between the maximum and minimum design temperature is above:
-190°C for all piping
-140°C for piping 4" NPS and larger
-115°C for piping 16" NPS and larger
• Note: These temperatures above are based on a design temperature 30°C above maximum
operating temperature. Where this is not the case, 30°C must be subtracted from values above.
• Lines 3" NPS and larger with wall thickness in excess of 10% of outside diameter. Thin walled
piping of 20" NPS and larger with wall thickness less than 1% of the outside diameter.
• All lines 3" NPS and larger connected to sensitive equipment such as rotating equipment.
However, lubrication oil lines, cooling medium lines etc. for such equipment shall not be
selected due to this item.
• All piping subject to vibration due to internal forces such as flow pulsation and/or slugging or external mechanical forces.
• All relief lines connected to pressure relief valves and rupture discs.
• All blowdown lines 2" NPS and larger excluding drains.
• All piping along the derrick and the flare tower.
• All lines above 3" NPS likely to be affected by movement of connecting equipment or by
• GRE piping 3" NPS and larger.
• All lines 3" NPS and larger subject to steam out.
• Long vertical lines (typical 20 meter and higher).
• Other lines as requested by the stress engineer.
• All production and injection manifolds with connecting piping.
• Lines subject to external movements, such as abnormal platform deflections, bridge movements, platform settlements etc.