Connector pipeline

42-mile Semco project ahead of schedule

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second story in a four-part series that focuses on topics discussed during the U.P. Energy Summit held June 14 in Marquette.

MARQUETTE — Construction for the Marquette Connector Pipeline is ahead of schedule, Semco Energy Gas Co. officials say.

Tim Lubbers, the company’s director of business development and community and legislative engagement, told attendees at the U.P. Energy Summit at Northern Michigan University in Marquette on Friday that tree-felling along the 42-mile route of the project was completed in May, with “in earnest construction” starting this month.

“We expect the pipeline will be in service by November of this year,” Lubbers said. “And that is ahead of when we contemplated the pipeline would be in service in 2020, so we are ahead of schedule. We even expect cleanup to be done in 2019. Now, there may be some remediation, depending on weather, that extends into 2020, but that all seems to be going very well.”

The pipeline consists of 36 miles of 20-inch-diameter pipeline originating near Arnold and running to near Eagle Mills in Negaunee Township and 6.4 miles of 10-inch-diameter pipe running from Eagle Mills into Marquette with a capacity of 144 million cubic feet per day.

The pipeline will link the existing Northern Natural Gas network, which serves Marquette and areas west of the city, with the Great Lakes Transmission Co. system, which runs along the southern edge of the Upper Peninsula.

Lubbers said the project, which is expected to cost between $140 to $150 million, will have multiple benefits including providing a “much needed source” of backup natural gas to meet the area’s energy demands, enhancing the reliability and security of natural gas delivery in the region, expanding the tax base and accommodating future growth and economic development.

The final cost to Semco customers for the project will be determined by the Michigan Public Service Commission in the coming months, but Lubbers said he expects the impact to be around $4 per month.

Semco officials have worked to make the project as seamless as possible for the community, with a significant portion of the pipeline route following existing utility corridors or road rights-of-way.

“These projects do have an impact,” Lubbers told attendees. “We worked hard to minimize the impact that this project has. We did have to remove some brush, and that’s already been done, but there will be no permanently filled wetlands and we have environmental inspections throughout the construction project to ensure our construction team and our construction managers are conforming to environmental best practices and obviously all permitting requirements, which should go without saying, but we just want everyone to know that we are doing everything we can to minimize the impact.”

One of the local impacts will be to the Noquemanon Trail Network, Lubbers said, because several trails managed by the NTN run adjacent to and, in some cases, across the property where the pipeline construction is occurring.

“One of our areas of local construction does impact the mountain biking trails and I apologize for that. We are doing the best we can to minimize that,” Lubbers said. “We have talked to the NTN organization, our crews are stopping work a couple of days before a festival that is happening, so the festival attendees can do whatever it is they want to do. And they won’t be resuming work in that area for a couple of days after the festival to make sure that we are minimizing the impact.”

He said he appreciates the overall support for the project from state and federal regulators, municipal leaders and community members.

“They recognize the need and the case for this pipeline,” Lubbers said. “We want to be sensitive to the needs of the communities that we are working in, but we are on a fairly aggressive schedule to get it done and get out of your way, and then make sure we can serve natural gas for the foreseeable future.”

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is lbowers@miningjournal.net.