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Renewing Mexico’s energy future: Part One

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Hydrocarbon Engineering,

During the last few years, Mexico has experienced an opening in the natural gas sector; with the objective of fuelling the national industry that every year demands a larger amount of electricity. Due to this, the need to encourage the development of new power plants, compressor stations and pipelines has emerged dramatically and the Mexican government has initiated a process to strengthen the transmission and distribution network of natural gas in the country.

A study of Secretaría de Energía de Mexico (SENER) explains that the consumption of natural gas in 2011 corresponded to 7973 million ft3/d. Of this total, 6224 million ft3/d came from domestic production and 1793 million ft3/d was imported. Owing to the shortage of natural gas in Mexico, the Mexican government’s strategy has been to buy gas from the US through pipeline interconnections.

The Chihuahua gas pipeline is strategically located in the central part of the border between Mexico and the US. In the next few years, the plan is to build two other interconnections. The first interconnection will be located in the western part of the border (Sasabe, Sonora State) and the second part in Frontera, Tamaulipas State, towards the Gulf of Mexico. The western gas import pipeline in Sonora State is already under construction by GSP, under a new project contract with another gas company.

The construction of the Chihuahua Corridor gas pipeline was awarded to Tarahumara Pipeline, S. de RL de C.V a subsidiary of Fermaca Enterprises S. de R.L. de C.V., for a project value of over US$ 450 million. The official signing of the construction contract was made on 3rd January 2012. The EPC contractor was GDI SICIM PIPELINES S.A. de C.V. (GSP).

Technical data

The Chihuahua Corridor pipeline is a 383 km, 36 in. gas line with pipe grade API 5L X70 PSL2 and thicknesses varying between 11.13 mm and 17.47 mm. The pipeline is capable of transporting 850 million ft3/d of natural gas at a maximum operating pressure of 1200 psi and at a temperature between 10 °C and 50 °C. The line starts at a point on the US border near Ciudad Juarez and ends at El Encino, located 25 km south of Chihuahua.

The pipeline included 14 mainline valve installations, seven pig traps, one metering/control station, two filters and one heater. The pipeline route included 11 railroad crossings, 15 road crossings and 85 watercourse crossings.

Trenching for a 36 in. pipeline.

EPC concept

This project has been developed by GSP on EPC basis with the basic engineering and commissioning provided by the client. GSP developed all the detailed engineering, including final alignment on the client’s route and obtaining all of the permits relevant to crossing of existing infrastructures such as roads, water courses and pipelines.

Except for the line pipes, all other materials were supplied by GSP. These included mainline valves and all other valves, traps, measuring station-regulation-control, fittings and piping and electric and instrumentation materials.

Procurement took approximately 13 months and included the review by the detailed engineering, evaluation of suppliers, issue of purchase orders to various suppliers, monitoring the production process of each and every one of the material purchased. These tasks were performed by the procurement department of GSP, assisted by the QA/QC department, followed by the expediting and control department to end with shipping of all material to the final location of installation.


The project was developed utilising the following logistic basis:

  • Two accommodation camps.
  • One offloading train station.
  • Two pipe temporary storing yards.
  • The main logistics base with a project office, main warehouse and workshop.
  • All pipes arrived by trains that were offloaded at the dedicated station. Pipes were then transported to either one of the two main pipe stacking areas before their stringing along the right-of-way.

The gas pipeline was built utilising a peak of 850 people, 80% of which were local, 20% expatriate. A huge fleet of specialised equipment was mobilised from GSP bases in Europe and Mexico.

Written by Giacomo Bonfanti, Luca Romanengo and Alejandro Ceballos, GDI-SICIM PIPELINES S.A. DE C.V., and edited by Rosalie Starling.

Part 2 of the abridged version of this article can be read here. The full article can be found in the June issue of World Pipelines.

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