The Natural Gas Pipeline (NGP) being installed along Highway 48 is a 170 miles long distribution
line that starts in Corpus Christy and ends up 9 miles out in the Gulf. From that point on,
approximately 300 miles, it will be directed to the South onto Tampico, Mexico. The first 8 miles
will be built under US regulations and standards. The remaining miles in Mexican waters will be
under Mexico’s regulations and standards.
The cost of the project is estimated at $1.5 billion dollars by the LDC (Local Distribution
Companies). The economic impact is expected to reach $300,000,000, and employ over 1,200
people. They are also investing in the community and working with the UT RGV students.
The pipeline project started way before they laid the first pipe joint. The land leases and even
Eminent Domain had to be completed before they could start. There were many miles through
the King Ranch and many other ranches along the way. One property did oppose the project
and had to be forced into the Eminent Domain process.
The pipeline uses various methodologies on the installation. The depth varies according to the
terrain and areas of ecological impact. It runs mostly at 5 to 6 feet deep, except when having to
cross water bodies like the Brownsville Ship Channel where it will be at 150’ deep. Under South
Bay it will be 6 to 8 feet below the bottom and into the gulf at 3 to 5 feet.
The pipes you see along Hwy. 48, if you have noticed, are of different colors, a dark red and a
green one. The green coating is a ceramic coating and the red coating is another coating that
covers the green ceramic coating. The corrosive environment in which the pipeline is being
installed requires the extra protection. The pipe is 48” wide and about 1” thick. The green pipe
is used when the pipe is laid down in a trench. The red pipe is used when bored through the
ground and that’s why the extra coating is necessary should scratches occur.
They have Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD), as well as angular drilling. Some of the drillings is
done with a larger pipe, a reamer, and a drill bit in the front and then the coated pipe gets
pushed through the drilling pipe. The Gulf pipeline is also laid down on the bottom of the ocean
and then jettisoned with hydraulic hoses and pressurized water to a 3 to 4 feet depth. This pipe
has a different type of coating that will resist the corrosion under water.
Safety systems run along the way with valves and surveying equipment. The PIGS, as they are
called, are inspecting robot-like machines that travel inside the pipe x-raying its walls looking for
deficiencies at 360º. The gas is pressurized at 1800 psi for distribution at various pressurizing
stations. There is one being built to the North of AMFELS where you may have noticed heavy
equipment by the far ridge. Another one may be being built before entering the Gulf.
One last note…. This is not a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) pipeline.