Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of stories about the Flanagan South pipeline project that is crossing through Johnson County.
By KEVIN LYON
(WARRENSBURG, Mo., digitalBURG) – A new oil pipeline being built in the Johnson County area by a Canadian company is providing thousands of jobs and will soon carry millions of gallons of oil through Missouri every day.
Flanagan South is the pipeline that is being built across the Midwest by Enbridge Energy alongside an existing pipeline. The new pipeline will stretch 589 miles from Pontiac, Ill., to the oil hub of Cushing, Okla., where it will then be shipped to the GulfCoast.
Officials in the Warrensburg area first became aware of the new pipeline project two years ago, when Enbridge sent the city a letter and scheduled a meeting in Concordia.
“We were there with local people and businesses,” said Paula Hertwig Hopkins, Warrensburg city manager. “They (Enbridge) were very professional. They answered all of our questions.”
Enbridge expects to have the pipeline in full operation by the end of this spring.
Work in the Warrensburg area is nearing completion, and most of the remaining work involves repairing the landscape.
“They compared it to a bell curve,” Hertwig Hopkins said. “We’re past the top of the curve and we’re on the downswing now.”
The Flanagan South project is estimated to cost $2.6 billion. The pipeline is 36 inches in diameter and will carry 600,000 barrels per day of crude oil. Flanagan will follow the course of the Spearhead pipeline that Enbridge bought from BP in 2003. Thus, the right of way for Flanagan South was already mostly secured, which made it easier for Enbridge to start construction.
The Spearhead line transports 300,000 bpd. Together both pipelines will carry 900,000 bpd to Cushing, Okla. With both pipelines running this summer, Enbridge is set to move 37 million gallons of oil through Missouri every day.
To build the pipeline, the topsoil is stripped and the path is graded before the pipe itself is laid, according to documents from Enbridge’s website. Work crews stake out the course of the piping before they weld the sections together.
These sections of pipe are then connected to follow the contours of the land. The pipe welds are inspected by X-ray, and the lining of the piping is tested before it is laid in the ground.
Marvin Coleman, Warrensburg Public Works director, said he has seen Enbridge in action.
“They take the topsoil out and then put it back in,” Coleman said. “You’d never know they took it out.”
The last major obstruction to the Flanagan South project fell in November 2013, when the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia shot down a request by the Sierra Club and the National Wildlife Federation for an injunction against the project.
Coleman said he mainly worked with Jeff Brockwell, the Enbridge right of way manager who found and purchased 80 acres near state routes HH and 13 to set up the main staging area for the pipeline workers.
“There are about 700 of these guys,” Coleman said, “and they’re quick and they get the job done.”
Hertwig Hopkins said the workers are highly skilled.
“It’s not just getting some iron and welding it together, it’s a huge project,” she said.
The workers come from across the country to do this job.
“One guy who I talked to only works six months out of the year, then he goes home,” Coleman said. “He told me he makes as much in six months as most people make in a year.”