Geomechanical Musings

I had an excellent week with TransCanada up in Fort Hills, north about an hour’s drive from Fort McMurray. We were working in the tank containment of their Northern Courier Project (NCP) terminal, the north end of the pipe that conveys hot bitumen south to Hardisty terminal, from where it makes its way to refineries in southern Canada and the US. I had a chance to support the hydrostatic tests on these tanks back in 2016, and it felt great to be back in Fort Mac, and the hospitality I received could not have been more appreciated.

I’m used to fielding sincere questions about how I feel working in the oil-and-gas industry, and this trip led me to reflect more carefully on my reasoning. There’s a valid argument about the side-effect consequences of making this energy available to American consumers who are not particularly skilled at using mass transit and not motivated to purchasing energy efficient vehicles. I acknowledge the merit of arguing that cutting off the supply of oil would accelerate the inevitable adoption of renewable and other lower-impact energy sources. If only it could be accomplished so easily…

What’s lost, though, in this (sometimes heated) discussion is the extraordinary commitment pipeline companies make to operating safely and maintaining containment integrity. And since a company is really just a group of engineers and operators united by management and culture, it’s not surprising that the oil-and-gas industry is home to the most diligent and thoughtful engineers with whom I’ve ever had the pleasure to work. They are, each of them, resourceful, bright, collaborative, safe, and well-trained. This past week in Alberta was a great reminder of engineering excellence under sometimes difficult conditions. It’s astonishing, and I can’t relate how much I enjoy working with them.

We completed our work safely and effectively, and I departed with the Operations group fully in control of a situation that, honestly, was never particularly challenging.  The idea of diligence is fully ingrained in their culture; they understand the consequences of a problem and are diligent in investigating every anomaly to assure that no issue escalates into a problem. I look forward to my next opportunity to support this excellent organization.

I spent a very pleasant Saturday morning with the GeoStabilization crew as they wrapped up shotcreting the face of their Lower San Antonio Road landslide repair while I ran the nail capacity performance test.  The site is surprisingly far east to still be in Santa Clara County, past Lick Observatory by almost an hour on a beautifully scenic winding road. The test setup is pretty simple, as you can see above, and the loads are modest enough that simple cribbing on soil provides enough reaction force.  We’re really enjoying this on-call collaboration with GSI and I’m angling for a way that I can cover the next testing assignment.

The crew at the Gilboa Dam Valve Chamber have been installing caissons (compression rock sockets) for the past few weeks and are ready to return to tiedown tensioning.  Sarah Kalman, Atlas’ field engineer running the QC program, shared these two shots from earlier today.  This photo shows the test arrangement including a work platform needed for measuring tendon elongation.

The draping tendons are waiting for tensioning. The proof test force stretches the high-strength cables more than 4 inches.

Commensurate Safety Professional Will Yarborough has been an integral part of this project.  This activity requires high pressures, huge forces, cold temperatures, long hours, and working at height. We appreciate Will’s extra effort keeping us all working safely.

Our good friend Keith Mackenzie of Healy Tibbitts Builders, Inc. reports that Pier 4 is officially in service.

Young Brothers’ Barge Kukahi berthed before first light this morning with a full load of containers that will be unloaded much more efficiently onto the luxuriously-wide new wharf deck.

The Hawaii Harbors Constructors team did great work on this project, and it was a pleasure for us to be involved. Congratulations to the whole project team on a job well done!

This morning I learned something very interesting about the NCEES Council Record program. Many of you carry a Council Record for rapidly securing a PE registration when your practice takes you to a new state. A few of you, I’m sure, have had the unpleasant surprise of learning that NCEES invalidated our 20+ year old records lat year when they upgraded to a new digital system (which is a delight to use, by the way).

This morning, as I worked my way through the process of refreshing my Texas PE, I saw that my work experience was incomplete after October 2016, which was coincidentally (?) the time that I finally finished restoring my record into the new system. Neither my employment nor the nature of my practice have changed in the past 10 months, so it was another unpleasant surprise that my record could not be transmitted to Texas.

I learned from the very responsive staff at NCEES that the new system requires work experience updates every 6 months. So after I described all the interesting stuff we did in the past 11 months, I set a reminder to re-submit in February and August every year for the remainder for my career. And now that you guys know too, I suggest you do so as well.

I’m a huge proponent of the NCEES program, and want very much to take full advantage of the service they provide. It occurs to me, though, that I will now be hitting you all up for experience confirmations twice as often, which gives us all a chance to keep in touch. I’m hopeful that the review process can be completed quickly and I can get my Texas PE reinstated before the floodwaters start to recede and it’s time to go to work repairing the damage.