When BakerCorp Regional Branch Manager Derrell Miller received a call requesting 80 frac tanks, he thought it was a mistake—requests for 80 frac tanks just don't happen every day. Nevertheless, Derrell had heard correctly and was about to embark on a project so extensive it would test the logistical coordination and stamina of the Baker team.
Lake Charles, Louisiana, is home to one of only four liquefied natural gas (LNG) shipping ports in the United States, and because natural gas is used to heat homes and power stoves, it's a powerful commodity for companies like Spectra Energy. The company is one of North America's leading natural gas infrastructure companies that gathers, processes, transports, stores and distributes to locations primarily in Western Canada and in the Midwestern and Northeastern United States. To maximize storage and provide a readily available supply of natural gas, companies utilize a variety of methods to store the gas. One preferred storage method is in subterranean salt caverns. Salt caverns provide an ideal facility to store gas because they're exceptionally strong, self-sealing, environmentally sound and economical and provide expanded storage capacity.
Spectra Energy, which owns several salt caverns, had contracted with PB Energy Storage Services to assist with the expansion of one of Spectra's existing salt caverns and to drill a new cavern. PB Energy engineers and builds underground storage facilities for liquid, gaseous and solid products. For this particular project, PB Energy contacted Baker to provide storage for the 1.4 million gallons of brine that was used to pressure test the expanded salt cavern. "There was no brine pit at the location to store the brine we needed to pressure test the cavern, so that is why we needed the 80 frac tanks. In addition, we needed the brine for the drilling process," said Mike Olesko, Project Manager for PB Energy. "We chose Baker because they could supply all the tanks and in the timeframe that we needed. We didn't have to go out to two or three different companies to get all the tanks," added Mike.
Being the one-source provider had its challenges. "In December, PB Energy originally requested that we have the tanks in place on January 15," said Derrell. "Two weeks later, PB called back and said they wanted everything ready to go on January 8." With the preparation time reduced, the logistics coordination had to work seamlessly. In early December, Baker began moving in tanks to stage at the job site until the project's start date. By January 3, it had all 80 tanks staged and ready. This left five days to lay and weld the secondary containment system, position the tanks, lay the hose and manifold the system together. "It's a huge amount of equipment to move and position in a short amount of time. It takes a lot of manpower and teamwork," said Derrell.
The original plan for the job required placement of four groupings of 20 tanks set up and manifolded throughout the job site. This accommodated for limited space and allowed PB Energy to isolate the groups of tanks to control and divert the flow of the brine. Baker recommended a reconfiguration of the original layout plan to streamline the setup, reduce the amount of hose needed to manifold the tanks together and make the process of controlling the flow easier for PB Energy. The success of the setup required a well-orchestrated coordination between Baker and PB Energy.
The first phase of the setup required board mat to be laid down to support the equipment. Because Louisiana receives a lot of rain, the water table is high, causing the ground to be soft and muddy. The layer of board mat allows trucks and equipment to be easily maneuvered. It also provides a level surface for the tanks. The second stage of the setup required positioning the secondary containment system, which was especially challenging given the windy, 25-degree weather. The containment system was made up of eight 50-foot-wide by 100-foot-long berms that were shipped to the job site. To create the massive containment system necessary, Baker welded together the berms in groups of two to measure 50 foot x 200 foot each. The final stage of the setup was positioning and manifolding the tanks into two rows of 40. "We began the setup by positioning two tanks in the center of the setup. We placed the two tanks, connected them and then worked our way outward so that we had 20 tanks in each direction; 20 tanks to the left and 20 tanks to the right," said Derrell. "PB Energy still needed a way to control and divert the brine flow so we built 8-inch valves that we placed on the header of the center tanks in each row. This controlled the flow in each direction," added Derrell.
"The Baker team quickly set it up and flawlessly handled everything. Our clients have stated how happy they were with getting the tanks in there in five days," said Mike Olesko. In fact, Baker actually finished the job one day ahead of schedule.