Pipeline Construction on Sand Using Local Infill

In extreme, inhospitable environment, Neoloy® Tough-Cells were used to construct reliable access road for pipeline construction on sand.

Laying pipelines through the Kazakh Steppe, the planet’s largest plain covering 1/3 of Kazakhstan (800,000 sq km) is a daunting endeavor. Despite its isolation and inhospitable weather, pipelines for the Central Asia-China pipeline project must cross this region to develop rich hydrocarbon resources near the Caspian Sea.

The transport of construction vehicles, equipment, personnel and pipes is a logistical nightmare. Heavy pipes must be hauled over huge distances over soft sands. Wear and tear on construction vehicles in this environment is so severe that they require monthly service and replacement. Construction workers need to be conveyed to and from working camps and pumping stations daily.

KazStroyService, the leading engineering-construction company in Kazakhstan together with China National Petroleum Company (CNPC), one of the world’s largest oil and gas suppliers, providers and engineering-construction firms, looked for a solution to make the pipeline route more traversable and expedite construction.


Conventional Method

Tracked transporters were previously the only means available for hauling equipment, pipes and workmen over the soft sands of the Steppe. These vehicles are expensive, travel slowly and subject to frequent breakdowns. Gravel infill was imported at great efforts and expense to create a road base, but the surface did not last more than a month. Pipeline construction progress was slow.

Neoloy Tough-Cell Solution

The client chose the 150 cm high Neoloy small Tough-Cells to reinforce weak sand soils over entire sections of the pipeline route. A 30 cm elevated embankment was created to separate the road from the desert floor. Local on-site sand was used to infill the Neoloy Tough-Cells, while a local sand-gravel mixture was used to overfill the cells for the surface layer. Heavy compactors were used to compact the pavement structure.

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Client benefits

  • Fast Installation – construction of the road through problematic areas was greatly expedited, typically 0.5 km finished road per day.
  • Reliable Transport – regular-wheeled vehicles could be used along the route at normal speeds (for example, regular buses were used to shuttle the workers to their base camps)
  • Logistics – the folded sections simplified logistics as they were delivered over the built sections as the road was built.
  • Sustainable – green construction method utilizing locally available materials, while reducing haul and fuel costs and pollution
  • Customer Satisfaction – clients were so impressed with initial performance, that they extended Neoloy coverage significantly in other areas.