EXCLUSIVE: Building the TransCanada Pipeline

CHEROKEE COUNTY (KYTX) -- TransCanada allowed CBS 19 cameras in for a look Thursday at the construction of its controversial oil pipeline that cuts through East Texas. It's been under construction for months, but we've never been able to show you how it happens.

All over East Texas giant pieces of pipe are being welded together. A lot of those welds are being done by robots--supervised by humans.

It's one of TransCanada's strategies for preventing leaks, by making joints that are more uniform, more reliable and stronger.

Outside the welding huts you start to realize how much pipe there really is. It's three feet wide. But it's 485 miles long. Putting it together is kind of like an assembly line.

"But instead of the line moving the tasks move," TransCanada's David Dodson said.

Dodson said the biggest mis-conception is that this pipeline will be carrying so-called tar sands.

"The product that is going to move initially is going to be West Texas intermediate or maybe some of the sweet crudes from the Balkan formation," he said, adding that the product mix will likely include tar sands if the company gets to build the rest of the line between Canada and Oklahoma.

The activity on the construction site is almost constant and there are about 700 people working on the section of the pipeline we visited. It's a 180 mile stretch.

But there's one person Who doesn't work in any way for TransCanada. He's a representative of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and his job every day work happens on the pipeline is to make sure things are being done correctly.

Back on the line, the welding huts move after every weld--a whopping 32,000 welds all together.

The people who lay the skids to hold up the pipe move too. And so do the guys who pre-heat the joints to make the welds stronger.

When they're another mile down the way it will be time to bury what they were working on Thursday, putting it out of sight, and perhaps out of mind.

"That's what we hope the public and the land owners feel is that we don't have to think about it," Dodson said. "Of course we have to think about it 24/7."

The company says there should be oil flowing to the Gulf Coast by this time next year.


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