by Cameron Dodd
Contractors working on the 143-mile Trans-Pecos Pipeline started drilling beneath the Rio Grande last week.
Construction of the Presidio Crossing Project, the roughly 1000-feet of pipeline tunneling beneath the Rio Grande about 12 miles northwest of Presidio, commenced after the pipeline was granted approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to drill from the U.S. side of the river.
Contractors drilled a six-inch pilot hole from the United States to Mexico under the river and international boundary. Fiber optic cables were run through the six-inch hole, according to the construction status update TPP filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
The pipeline will be buried 69 feet beneath the Rio Grande, according to TPP plans submitted to FERC. Contractors are using a method called horizontal directional drilling, technology developed for drilling oil and natural gas wells. It is the same process that TPP is using to lay pipe beneath parts of highways 90 and 67.
TPP’s contractors drafted a directional drilling contingency plan that detail procedures for reporting and remediating any leaks of drilling fluid into the river itself. An environmental assessment conducted by FERC concluded the drilling would not significantly impact the river or other biological resources in the area.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved Friday, Oct. 28 a request for a variance from the Trans-Pecos Pipeline (TPP). This was the second such variance TPP requested from the federal regulator.
FERC has regulatory jurisdiction over what is called the “Presidio Crossing Project,” the roughly 1,000 feet that the pipeline crosses under the Rio Grande. In the original plan for the Presidio Crossing, the pipeline company proposed to use horizontal directional drilling to burrow the pipeline under the river, beginning from the United States side.