In 1993, Bechtel completed for Pacific Gas Transmission Company (PGT) and its parent company, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), a massive expansion of the natural gas pipeline that runs from Idaho’s border with British Columbia to central California. From one end of the 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) line to the other, project staff took extraordinary measures to protect the environment. Everyone who so much as set foot on the construction site was trained in environmental awareness and work practices. Leading-edge construction methods were employed to preserve delicate ecosystems associated with the Sacramento River Delta. And a fishery-enhancement program for Idaho’s Moyie River created a superior habitat for trout.
By 1989, the demand for natural gas had already outgrown the capacity of the system built in the 1960s. PGT and PG&E hired Bechtel to expand the pipeline to meet increased demand. The industry had certainly grown. The PGT-PG&E pipeline expansion represented the largest lump-sum project in Bechtel history: $1.3 billion. In addition to project management, Bechtel was responsible for general contracting services, such as detailed engineering, major procurement, right-of-way acquisition, construction, and startup.
The Bechtel team laid 1,100 kilometers of 42-inch pipe and 177 kilometers of 36-inch pipe from the U.S.-Canadian border to Fresno County. Existing facilities at 15 compressor stations and 3 meter stations were modified and expanded, and a new compressor station built. The route crossed 40 sets of railroad tracks and 1,012 state, county, and local roads. The project team managed nearly 260 crossings of rivers, lakes, and streams.
Environmental concerns were key. Numerous innovative, site-specific mitigation plans were prepared and reviewed by various agencies; construction workers received thorough training in environmental awareness; and a special fishery enhancement program was developed for Idaho’s Moyie River. About 3,350 meters of pipe had to be installed underneath three waterways in the Sacramento River Delta by horizontal directional drilling (HDD). Unlike traditional open-cut trenching, this method did not disrupt waterways and wetlands.
The expansion boosted capacity from 1.4 to 2.3 billion cubic feet per day. And preserving the environment proved perfectly compatible with progress. Commercial operation began on schedule in November 1993.