Font Size

- Aa +

Sat 6 Nov 2010 12:00 AM

Font Size

- Aa +

End of the pipe

Ahead of its completion in December, PMV looks at the TFP project, a three-year attempt to connect the gas-rich Qatar, to Abu Dhabi and Fujairah.

End of the pipe
LAND CROSSING: The TFP pipeline runs for 246 km across the UAE.

The origins of the Tawleewah-Furairah pipeline project reach back as far as 1989. In November that year, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit discussed the idea of the most ambitious domestic Middle Eastern gas project ever suggested. The idea was to create a transnational pipeline that fused the national grids of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, and the UAE into a single network.

Central to that plan was Qatar’s enormous North Field, an offshore area that the country shares with Iran. Qatar being strategically placed in the Gulf – at the tip of Saudi Arabia, and effectively between Bahrain and the UAE – could seemingly supply the region’s gas needs  while monetising its reserves and fueling its own economic growth. The Dolphin project was born.

In the intervening years the dream of a pan-Gulf pipeline has been scaled back but work on completing Dolphin as a linkup of Qatar with its less gas-rich partners, the UAE and Oman, continues.

Next month should see the completion of one of the most important stages of the project the Tawleewah-Fujairah link.

The gas is produced on two offshore platforms, transported via dedicated sealines to Ras Laffan for processing and then pumped through a sub-sea pipeline to Taweelah, Abu Dhabi on the Persian Gulf coast of the UAE. The pipeline runs overland from Taweelah and ends after 246 km in Qidfa, Emirate of Fujairah.

The project has also become major imitative for the Abu Dhabi Water & Electricity Authority (ADWEA) and its ability to continue to supply the Emirate’s energy needs. When completed, it will supply 56.6 million cubic metres of gas per day to customers.

Route obstacles

The project presented several challenges including a route that took in large, barren stretches of Abu Dhabi’s territory before winding its way through parts of several other Emirates, crossing the Hajjar Mountains and descending into Fujairah. And then there was the red-tape to cross.

Despite strong support from authorities, not least from the ADWEA, and the clear benefits of the project, permits had to be applied for and negotiated over with the relevant authorities to cover environmental, safety, municipal and other regulations before work could begin.

“The construction challenge has been phenomenal considering the timeframe and the tough conditions associated with laying a 48 in pipeline across the harsh desert and mountainous terrain,” said Ibrahim Ahmed Al Ansari, General Manager, UAE, Dolphin Energy as he outlined some of the challenges involved in the project.

He continued: “The most significant challenges during construction were associated with third party crossings which required permission from various authorities to cross their assets. More than 150 such crossings were performed safely on this section of the TFP to ensure the integrity of the assets. In addition, five major road crossings were also executed under non destructive trenching techniques.”

Should it make December, the project would finish almost three years to the day from when the tendering process began in late-2007.

The first tender was awarded to Salzgitter Mannesmann International of Germany, who was tasked with the manufacture of the pipeline.

The purchase order to Salzgitter was worth more than $200 million and some 120,000 tons of X70 48 in coated line pipe were formed at fellow German company Europipe’s steel mills in Dunkerque, France, and Mülheim an der Ruhr, Germany (the inside and protective outside coatings were supplied by Eupec France and by Mulheim pipe coatings).

The first deliveries were made in the summer of 2008, with final deliveries being completion in the spring of 2009.

“There is a strong world demand of quality steel pipe – Dolphin has had to compete with other major international projects to secure the line pipe for the TFP Project,” commented Dolphin Energy’s Ibrahim Ahmed Al Ansari.

“We undertook a fast-track procurement process, and were able to achieve a very competitive price and delivery schedule in difficult market conditions.”

With the pipe ordered, work began in early 2008 to progress to the next stage and to take bids for the design and build of the project. Nine contracting companies were invited to bid including: Al Jaber Energy, UAE, Consolidated Contractors Company, Greece, CPECC, China , Dodsal, India, Petrojet, Egypt, Snamprogetti, Italy, Stroytransgaz (STG), Russia, Techint, Saudi Arabia and Technip of Germany.

Eight international construction companies initially bid for the work, and technical tenders were accepted from five, which proceeded to the commercial bid stage. However with Russia holding onto the world’s largest gas reserves and the biggest well of expertise, in terms of overland pipelaying, it was unsurprising when it was announced in July 2008 that the contract had gone to Moscow-based STG.

Ibrahim Ahmed Al Ansari, described the design and build tendering process as exhaustive and was clearly a happy man when he met with STG’s senior management in November 2008 following delays on the project.

By the time STG was on the project, Dolphin Energy had received 189 km of the line pipe – representing some 76% – to the project’s marshalling area (via Mina Zayed) with delivery of the remaining quantity completed by in the following spring.

Right of way works commenced in both the desert and mountain sections at the beginning of 2009. “This was followed by stringing and welding in the desert section which commenced in February,” explained Anwar Zuarub, DVP, UAE Projects, Dolphin Energy.

Work began on pipe laying during the fourth quarter of 2008, with the imported pipe shipped from Germany and trucked to holding areas along the route.

Trenching work

The next step was the most physical with trenching work  and the lowering of pipes into the ground for the desert section. Soon after trenching, stringing, welding and lowering the pipes into the ground in the mountain section was also started.

By May 2010, the project had reached its second milestone: the point where a hot tap connection could be made between the TFP’s 48 in pipeline and the already existing Al Ain-Fujairah 24 in pipeline.

Having begun to ‘commission gas’ to ADWEC in August 2009, the pipeline began transporting 350 million standard cubic feet of natural gas per day to ADWEC’s F1 and F2 power stations, located in Fujairah.

A look at the numbers involved in completing the construction of the 128 km for stage two of 48 in pipeline gives an indication of the effort being expelled to complete the project.

“It has involved more than 10,700 weld joints, six block valve stations along the route and 256 kilometres of fibre optic cable on either side of the pipeline,” said Anwar Zuarub, Deputy VP, UAE Projects.

Having the end in sight for much of this year has not seen a slowing down or a coast to the finish line. There has still been 116 km to traverse, the construction of three block valve stations, a receiving station at Qidfa and additional equipment at the Taweelah installed.

However ADWEC  CEO Ahmed Ali Al Sayegh regarding the incoming benefits to his country allows himself a moment to look forward: “By meeting our commitment to the customer to operate their plants, Dolphin Energy is helping to enhance industrial development and economic growth in the east coast of our country.”

For all the latest construction news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.