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Coming soon: An instant miniature city of 600 in the desert

Rob Sabo

Creation of a self-contained miniature city in the desert of northern Washoe County presented logistical challenges to Doug Cissna, general manager of Teton Buildings LLC of Casper, Wyo.

After all, he needed to find nearly 100 trucks on short notice to haul buildings from fabrication sites in Casper and Houston to the new city that will house hundreds of workers on the Ruby Pipeline natural gas project.

Teton Buildings will provide 97 prefabricated portable buildings to house 400 men at the newly created city near the ghost town of Vya in northern Washoe County.

Even while he was hurrying to get buildings ready for delivery to Vya, Cissna said the logistical difficulties are slight compared to camps the company is contracted to build for a 6,000-bed project in Peru and a 12,000-bed camp in Nigeria.

The Ruby Pipeline work camp in Nevada is expected to be home to 600 workers, and another smaller camp for 350 workers is slated for Lakeview, Ore. The camp at Vya will include a guard shack, executive sleeping quarters, bathing areas, an Internet cafe, and a kitchen and dining complex.

Each sleeping building is about 120 square feet and will be home to seven workers. Two hundred spaces for RVs and trailers with full hookups will be available as well. Cissna says the Ruby Pipeline dwellings already are built, and that Teton Buildings awaits only the word from pipeline builder El Paso Corp. to begin shipments to the site.

“Once we are able to break ground, I have to put 50 trucks a week for two weeks on the road to meet timelines,” Cissna says. “Finding 50 trucks that can turn and burn is the largest logistical challenge we have.”

El Paso expects to receive federal approval soon to begin work at the site.

Buildings will be offloaded by a crane at the site. Setting the buildings is expected to take about 10 days, and total construction should run about seven weeks to install underground utilities, septic systems, and fire suppression and water.

In addition to providing sleeping structures for the camp, Teton Buildings will subcontract administration of the site. Cissna says the Vya work camp staff will consist of several dozen people, including a camp manager, cleaning workers, a head chef, a sous chef, and a full-time electrician and carpenter.

El Paso expects to use the site for about seven to eight months, and once work in the area is completed, the site will be restored to its original condition. The work camp near Vya consists of about 80 leased acres and the company has won special-use permits from Washoe County.

“It is a fairly sizable work camp,” says Richard Wheatley, media relations manager for El Paso Corp. “It is a very remote site, and there are not a lot of neighbors.”

Lynn Christensen, project manager west for the Ruby Pipeline, says there is modest power generation at the site, but it’s not enough to run camp. El Paso Corp. plans to have two diesel-powered one-megawatt generators on site one for power, one for backup.

A shallow well already exists at the site, but El Paso also will drill two wells, one for the camp’s domestic water supply, the other for fire- fighting.

“It is a pretty old well, and we don’t know much about it,” Christensen says. “Part of the special-use requirement was we had to have a certain flow rate to potentially fight fires, and because the well that is there is kind of unknown we intend to drill two new wells.”

More than two-thirds of the pipeline workforce will take buses to and from work sites to eliminate vehicle traffic in the area. Materials and supplies for the camp will be brought in from Reno, Winnemucca, and other locations, Christensen says.

“Right now we have got a wagon wheel of options to use depending on where parts or pieces of equipment and material are coming from,” he says. “And we do have fair amount of equipment staged in Lakeview.”

El Paso also has miles of pipe stored in Golconda and Gerlach, Christensen notes.

The company received notice to proceed on the project from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on July 30, and El Paso had men in the field the next day. However, the notice to proceed did not cover certain parts of the project, such as the work camp at Vya.

“We are very glad to be in construction,” Wheatley says. “We mobilized very quickly following FERC. We were very prepared to begin construction, having already trained workers in past several weeks on things to do on construction inspection and other requirements imposed by FERC and the BLM.

In July El Paso conducted a series of meetings for its construction personnel in Elko and Salt Lake City, training more than 500 workers on what’s required to build the pipeline.

The Ruby Pipeline is expected to be operational by March 2011, and Christensen says more than 675 miles of pipe will be buried in the ground by the end of year.

“It will be a push to have all that done by the March time frame, but once we do get moving the pipeline project will move very quickly. We just need final approvals to get into high gear.”

SIDEBAR

Getting there

Transportation across Nevada’s remote northwestern corner poses a logistical challenge to builders of the Ruby Pipeline project. More than 600 men are expected to use a work camp being constructed in northern Washoe County by pipeline builder El Paso Corp. of Houston.

At 6 a.m. each Day, workers will depart the camp facility by 10 to 12 buses. El Paso will haul between 60 and 65 percent of the pipeline workforce to the work areas. Workers who need their own vehicles, such as operators and welders, and about 20 to 30 inspectors employed by El Paso, will head out each morning in 100 to 120 different pickup trucks. The work force will head back to the camp at 5 p.m. each evening.