Michels, McElroy keep natural gas flowing in Minneapolis

In Minneapolis, Minnesota, keeping the natural gas flowing in winter is a top priority.

Just north of the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, work was underway in November 2022 to replace existing natural gas lines with long-lasting HDPE to keep the heat flowing for decades to come.

Several McElroy TracStar® 28 and TracStar 412 machines, Pit Bull® 14 machines, and Sidewinders® were brought in to fuse the thousands of feet of Medium-Density Polyethylene (MDPE) pipe involved in the project, which replaced a 70-year-old mix of bare steel pipe, along with some portions of Aldyl AA pipe.

This particular piece of main involved removing the existing infrastructure that was installed in 1949.

Teams from Michels Utility Services spearheaded the job, which spanned multiple blocks north of the airport. Founded in 1959, Michels is a family-owned company based in Brownsville, Wisconsin that installs and maintains natural gas distribution systems across the United States.

As light snow blanketed the ground, crews dug up portions of residential streets and sidewalks as they replaced the 6- and 8-inch gas lines that keep the nearby houses warm during frigid Minnesota winters. These gas lines provide service to about 750 houses in the area.

“We chose this pipe material because of its durability,” said Jeremy Cook, Manager of Reconstruction Main at Michels Utility Services. “PE is much more flexible than PVC and metal pipe, and fusing the pipe is a quick and reliable method for installation.”

The project was broken down into two phases with a series of separate mains. The first phase consisted of 8,190 feet (2.5 km) of coiled 2-inch pipe. The second phase of the project added an additional 6,576 feet (2 km) of 2-inch pipe and 4,098 feet (1.25 km) of 6- and 8-inch pipe.

Individual gas services were expected to be completed in spring 2023, Cook said.

As crews fused 100-foot sticks of coiled 2-inch pipe with Pit Bulls, fusion operators worked on the 6- and 8-inch fusions with TracStars. Individual service lines were installed via saddle fusions, completed using the Sidewinder.

Equipment was provided by Groebner, a company that specializes in selling, stocking, and advising on natural gas products, from the pipeline to the meter. Groebner has facilities in Minnesota, Illinois, Kansas, and Texas.

“This was a series of separate jobs that all connected,” Cook added. “It was a big undertaking that involved a lot of different teams of people.”