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Project / Heavy Lift

Water works – pipeline projects for water transfer: engineering and financial challenge

While modern-day pipeline projects have become synonymous with oil and gas, there’s another effort afoot that doesn’t get nearly the publicity: water transfer. Two projects illustrate this. The far more dramatic is in China, where the country is constructing what will be the largest-ever system of water-borne pipelines. Called the “south to north water diversion project,” the network isn’t expected to be fully operational until 2050 and is projected to cost more than $60 billion. Water on the central route began flowing last month from a reservoir on the Han River in Hubei Province to Beijing, about 900 miles away. The initial eastern route was opened a year earlier. The controversial eastern route is in the planning stage. A less expansive, but also noteworthy effort is underway in Qatar, where a 155-miles pipeline will link five subterranean fresh-water reservoirs and a series of desalination plants on the coast. The project is expected to cost $3 billion and be completed by 2020. Work began in 2013. According to Rama Krishnan, deputy general manager of logistics firm DBP International in Qatar, the difficulty has been to move the specially treated pipes, with no margin for damage, in extremely cramped and limiting conditions. “Compared with the facilities we have, it’s a huge volume,” he says. The pipes come into the port at Doha, a minimum of one vessel a week carrying anywhere from 4,000 to 5,000 pipes. There’s no room for storage. They must be transported immediately, at least 30 miles away. One specially equipped truck can take only two pipes per trip. They must pass through Doha city, which bans trucks during several hours during the day. “It’s a big challenge,” Krishnan says.
Matt Miller

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