Workers Steven Blackburn (left) and Adam Shaffer run the horizontal directional drill. Questar Gas is working to finish the Main Street section of its upgrade project on the natural gas distribution system before the start of Easter Jeep Safari. [Photo by Lindsey Bartosh / Moab Sun News]

Questar Gas is resuming work on inspecting and replacing the natural gas pipeline distribution system for the city of Moab.

Questar purchased the natural gas distribution system from Utah Gas and has been working since 2013, replacing infrastructure, making the system consistent with other service areas, and enhancing the system for future development and growth in the Moab area.

“We acquired this distribution system back in 2001,” Questar Gas region manager Shelley Fenn said. “We have been operating and maintaining it ever since and now we’re at a point where it’s time to replace various sections. Last year we inspected and replaced lines northwest of the city. Now, we’re working on the northeast side.”

Currently, Questar Gas provides natural gas to parts of Wyoming and Utah. DeeRay Wardle, operations manager for Questar Gas’ eastern region, said the work being performed will make the system safer, easier to access, and upgraded for future growth in Moab.

“Part of the project is to actually enhance the system for future growth, like the college, things like that,” Wardle said. “We are putting in bigger lines that will allow us the ability to accommodate whatever needs might arise in the future for development. Our part of the infrastructure will already be there for whatever comes.”

Other work on the system will include replacing all the steel lines with plastic lines. Wardle said plastic lines are easier to repair and locate, which makes things safer. Also, the plastic lines last twice as long as steel. He said “these lines should be good for well over 100 years.”

The steel lines will stay in place and become abandoned, Wardle said.

Questar will also be creating easier access to all the shut-off valves for the lines and moving the lines to the front of the homes.

“Ninety-five percent of the lines will be toward the street instead of at the back of the homes, allowing for easy and quick access in case of an emergency,” Wardle said.

Wardle said the primary goal of the project is have minimal impact on customers and tourists.

“We want to make it so (tourists) still want to be here and our economy flourishes through the process,” he said.

Some homes will need to be accessed during the project in order to manipulate or change fuel lines, but Questar will be contacting those home owners a week or two before they reach the area. While in the home, Questar will run checks and make small repairs for the customers as well.

“We will check all their appliances, size all their interior piping, install new fuel lines if necessary, and put new drops for extra or future appliances,” Wardle said. “We will also make sure everything in the home meets International Fuel Gas Code (IFGC). We will do some small replacements, like appliance connectors, and appliance safeties. The customer will not incur any additional costs on their bill from this process.”

Because of the type of drilling used, horizontal directional drilling, the project will also create minimal impact to the streets, traffic and areas surrounding the homes. Wardle explained that the contractor completing most of the work for Questar Gas is B. Jackson, which is based out of West Jordan.

“B. Jackson has really minimized any type of disruption with this project,” he said.

J.R. Oaks, the project foreman for B. Jackson, said horizontal directional drilling allows the company to drill trenches for feeding the new piping under the streets without disrupting the surface of the pavement. A vertical hole is drilled down a couple of feet and the horizontal drill head is dropped in to drill the trench. The company has the ability to drill in all directions with the machine.

“We have the ability to run about 600 feet at a time with our drill,” Oaks said. “Back before directional drills, we would have to trench the entire street. We would have to block driveways, tear out concrete, kill people’s trees. Right now, we just have to have a hole at each end and we can drop in.”

As Questar is upgrading and repairing the system, it is also collecting information for the City of Moab. So that it will not damage or ruin existing infrastructure, all underground utilities must be located before B. Jackson starts drilling in an area. Questar and the City of Moab are utilizing the project as an opportunity to use global positioning system (GPS) to record the location of utilities like sewer, electric, and water.

“We use a water jet, wash down and find the pipes, and then we mark them out,” Oaks said. “So, what GPS people do is come behind us and gather the data as we go. As we move, the Moab City knows what is where.”

City of Moab Public Works director Jeff Foster said the information collected from the GPS devices will be useful.

“We gain information about our system by recording Questar’s marks on the ground with GPS devices, and then input that information into our Geographical Information System (GIS),” he said.

Oaks said they are also dropping a camera in the sewer main lines, locating the spots where the lines branch off to homes and inspecting the condition of the lines. All this information is being passed along to the City of Moab.

Foster said the project will also benefit the city and people of Moab in other ways.

“Another way that the project benefits the city is that the curb, gutter, and sidewalk that is being taken out to run (Questar) bore shots and connection holes is being replaced with new concrete improvements,” he said. “If possible, they try to find locations to make their holes where the concrete or road already has cracks and imperfections.”

The distribution upgrade project is scheduled to be completed in five years. Each year, Questar will typically start working on March 1 and continue until October 1. This March marked the start of the second year of the project.

“Our intentions are to have it finished by 2017 or close to that,” Wardle said.

Last year, the company worked from the La Hacienda restaurant to Kane Creek Boulevard in the area west of Main Street to 500 West. They still have some small projects to complete in that area, but for the most part have completed that phase of the project.

This year, the project will include Main Street from the La Hacienda restaurant to Kane Creek Boulevard and the area east of Main Street to 400 East. Wardle said the company will have Main Street and a block in each direction completed before the Easter Jeep Safari, which starts April 12.

“The Questar Gas line replacement program is going well at this point,” Foster said. “They are attempting to get finished on Main Street before Jeep Safari, and it looks as if they will make this first goal.”

Wardle said Questar is “committed to the city and the safety of the public within the city.”

“That is why we are doing this project, to make sure everyone is safe,” he said. “That is our number one concern: public safety.”

Goal is to be off Main Street before Jeep Safari

“Ninety-five percent of the lines will be toward the street instead of at the back of the homes, allowing for easy and quick access in case of an emergency.”