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An Erickson Inc. S-64 Aircrane is helping Xcel Energy set up a new electric-transmission line to support future oil and gas production and exploration in northwest Colorado.
The work comes as Erickson is increasing its pursuit of infrastructure-related contracts to offset downturns in its offshore support and U.S. government business lines.
This week the Aircrane began hoisting about 90 transmission-line towers for Xcel, The Daily Sentinel of Grand Junction, Colorado, reported. The Erickson loads accounted for two-thirds of the planned 120 H-shaped towers, which range from 70 to 140 ft high and weigh 6,000 to 10,000 lb. They are to carry a 230-kV Xcel electric line along a 20.5-mi route between Rifle and Parachute, the latter of which is about 35 nm northeast of Grand Junction.
The Aircrane carried towers to areas that are inaccessible by road along the route, which lies at elevations above 5,000 ft and runs through private land and ground owned by the U.S. Interior Dept.'s Bureau of Land Management. Other helicopters are being used for less demanding tasks.
Erickson President and CEO Jeff Roberts has said that, amid downturn in support work for offshore oil and gas exploration and production and U.S. government operations abroad, the company is looking to build its activities related to long-term, infrastructure projects, particularly in emerging and developing markets.
As an example, Erickson this year is working with Sterlite Grid of India to use the Aircrane's high-precision lift capability for installation of nearly 160 power-transmission towers in the challenging terrain of northern India’s Pir Panjal mountain range. Sterlite Grid is said to be India’s largest private developer of independent power transmission systems.
In Colorado, the $28-million project is aimed at enhancing Xcel Energy’s ability to support future production of natural gas and oil from shale deposits in the region's Piceance Basin. That basin is said to contain one of the thickest and richest oil shale deposits in the world.
The Daily Sentinel reported that little drilling is being done now due to low natural gas prices, but Xcel expects activity to pick up at some point. It quoted Xcel Area Manager Kelly Flenniken as saying, “We certainly want to be ready to provide for that growth when it happens and in advance of when it happens, instead of trying to figure out how to do it after the fact.” Production requires the compression of natural gas for storage and shipment, and producers are shifting from gas-powered to electric compressors to reduce the environmental impact of their operations.
The project is due for completion in November.