Bright green pipeline segments lying along Interstate 25 will boost New Mexico Gas Co.’s future service in Santa Fe and communities as far north as Red River.
The gas company started construction May 4 on a 20-inch natural gas pipeline that will run 35 miles next to an existing, 50-year-old, 12-inch pipeline from Bernalillo to Santa Fe.
The new line will start near the I-25/U.S. 550 interchange and end at the I-25/N.M. 599 interchange. Pipeline installation is expected to last into winter, New Mexico Gas spokesman Tim Korte said.
“This will increase reliability and increase capacity and provide for future economic growth,” he said.
Both pipelines will remain in service after the new line is fully installed. The increased capacity will likely become necessary in the next two to five years, Korte said.
New Mexico Gas is considering supplying most of the natural gas to Los Alamos from the east with the new line coming to Santa Fe. Los Alamos receives its natural gas primarily from the west through pipeline installed in the 1940s and ‘50s as the city was established, Korte said.
New Mexico Gas also serves Española, Taos, Questa, Red River, several pueblos and other communities north of Santa Fe.
Initial sections of the new pipeline already have been installed near Bernalillo. Green pipeline is laid out along the freeway north of there, triggering questions from drivers about the project.
Mostly, the pipeline is being installed in cut-and-cover fashion, but about 2,000 feet will be bored through La Bajada, Korte said.
“We didn’t want to tear it open,” he said of the hill. “We wanted to preserve the environment.”
Pipeline construction did stop June 18-19 after five employees of a six-member contractor crew tested positive for the novel coronavirus. One employee had arrived from another area in New Mexico, Korte said. New Mexico Gas tested another 171 workers on the pipeline project; none tested positive, he said.
The company has been performing temperature checks on all pipeline workers since the beginning of the project, Korte said, and employees have been required to wear masks, report symptoms of the virus and stay 6 feet away from other workers when possible.