Cove Point Construction Advances

By Sarah Fleischman, Calvert Recorder

In the months since the liquefied natural gas export project was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Dominion has hit the ground running to have its Lusby export facility operational by late 2017.

An offsite area in Solomons is essentially complete, said Bob McKinley, vice president of Dominion Cove Point Liquefied Natural Gas construction. The temporary pier built to receive shipments from barges on the Patuxent River, which was approved by the Maryland Board of Public Works, will start operations in the spring.

This area is expected to be returned to its preconstruction condition when barge shipments end in 2016. The offsite area in Solomons has been a focal point for opponents of the export plant, some of whom gained access to the site and climbed high on top of a mound of soil to protest the export project in November.

Another offsite area across Route 2/4 from Cove Point Road, which will be a parking area for employees, is in the process of being cleared and graded. The foundation has been poured for a warehouse and a wetland bridge. Construction there will continue through April and May, McKinley said.

At the main terminal on Cove Point Road, erosion and sediment controls are being installed. A majority of the wooded area to be cleared for the export project has been completed. Next, retaining walls will be built to support moving of land to level the area.

A temporary 20-foot-high sound wall has been installed at the south and west ends of the property. Within the next few weeks, construction will begin on the permanent 60-foot-high sound wall. Construction of this wall is expected to take 12 months.

There are about 180 people working on the construction-related activities at Cove Point. Of those 180 people, 130 currently live in Calvert and St. Mary’s counties, although some relocated to live here, McKinley said.

In 2015, the number of construction workers is expected be about 1,000. In 2016, the company will reach its peak number of about 1,300 construction workers, and in the spring of 2017, the number of workers will taper off.

Dominion has contracted with IHI/Kiewit, with whom the company has worked before. The company is working with local unions to hire equipment operators, laborers and ironworkers. Currently, most of the workers on the project are equipment operators, but soon the project will need a large number of pipefitters.

“For the next three months, we will primarily be doing site work,” McKinley said.

The job opportunities have long been touted as a benefit of the $3.8 billion project, expected to provide an estimated 3,500 “job years,” a term the company uses to measure temporary jobs in which, for example, two people might each work for six months for a total of one job year. Additionally, the project provides more opportunities for apprenticeships that would not have otherwise been available locally, said Karl Neddenien, spokesman for Dominion Cove Point.

After the earthwork is completed, work will continue on foundations for the compressor trains and generating station. The larger equipment will start arriving and will be placed next year.

Moving the large pieces of equipment from the offsite area in Solomons will be no small feat. For each trip up Route 2/4 to the terminal, a permit from the State Highway Administration is required. Constructing the export project is like constructing a house in that many visual changes happen quickly, but much of the time is spent on the details within the house, such as electrical work and plumbing. With the export project, large equipment will be added fairly quickly, and then workers will spend months making that equipment operational, McKinley said.

To keep residents aware of construction-related activities, Dominion will send out a quarterly newsletter. The first was sent in November. Additionally, the schedule of the large haul operations will be communicated to those in the area. Most of the large haul operations will be done in the night hours and will not conflict with holiday weekends or large community activities, McKinley said. The county will have input on the schedule for these operations, Neddenien said. Approximately 40 to 50 barges will arrive with the large equipment, and at least 40 trips will be taken from the pier in Solomons to the terminal.

The largest load will be the main cryogenic heat exchanger, which is 155-feet long and 20 feet in diameter. The rig to transport the heat exchanger is 1 million pounds. In accordance with SHA regulations, this weight must be spread over many axles on the truck, and each axle is steered individually. The entire rig will be 250- to 300-feet long, McKinley said.

According to the company’s November newsletter, “Dominion understands that its construction activities may affect the nearby community. We want to hear from you if you have questions or if you have concerns about construction-related issues. We also would like to know if you want to receive this newsletter via email. There are two ways to contact us. You may send an email message to CovePoint@dom.com or leave a detailed message on our voice mail system at 410-286-5757.”

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