On Wednesday 24 August, the first pile was sunk to begin construction work on the BBL compressor station in Anna Paulowna. At exactly four o’clock, municipal councillor Stienus Steenbergen started up the pile-driver and sank the first pile in the presence of senior BBL and Gasunie management plus a host of invited guests, including a number of local residents. The event marked the official start of work to build the compressor station. The group then went to celebrate the occasion in café restaurant “Het Wapen van Holland”.
Gas transport company Gasunie is the biggest shareholder in BBL Company, and has also been commissioned by BBL Company to build and manage the new pipeline. Gasunie CEO Marcel Kramer explains: ‘The construction of the BBL will bring with it a major export contract as well as providing a service to foreign gas suppliers. At the same time, by extending its infrastructure, the Netherlands will also be strengthening its own position as a key hub in the European network of natural gas pipelines. This Dutch ‘hub’ will boost the development and liberalisation of the market for natural gas and could lead to the recruitment of new gas streams. Discussions with major suppliers, including from Russia and Germany – who have a choice of various transport routes – shows how important it is for us to present ourselves as an attractive logistical partner.’
Stienus Steenbergen stressed that the driving of the first pile represented more than simply the completion of a scheme to fit a new installation into the local environment. ‘It marks the start of a process which will eventually lead to the supply of gas to the United Kingdom. It will also give rise to new economic activity. Gasunie’s expertise and knowledge in the sphere of natural gas, its transport, applications and related services is a major asset for our municipality.’
Martin Bosman, managing director of BBL Company, described the event as a milestone: ‘This is a historic step, in that the BBL will be the first fixed pipeline link to be built between the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.’
Initial construction work
All the preparatory work - including obtaining the necessary building and environmental permits - was completed on 15 August. This has made it possible to make a start on the initial construction activity. The pile drivers have been in operation since then. Work will continue until 15 August 2006, by which time the station must be operational.
HDD drilling technique
At the same time as work was getting under way to build the compressor station in Anna Paulowna, preparations were also being made to lay a substantial section of the pipeline between Balgzand and Bacton, again on the Dutch side. This section, which will run from the compressor station to the sea, has two obstacles to overcome: the Noord-Holland Canal and a chain of dunes. To avoid working in the dunes in the autumn and winter, when they are at their most vulnerable, the pipeline will be taken underneath this area at the end of summer 2005. A subterranean corridor will be excavated using an advanced drilling technique, and the pipelines will subsequently be fed through it. This curved tunnel will travel under the dunes. The excavation technique, known as Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD), is both environmentally friendly and will protect the dunes (since they will not need to be excavated).
The drilling operation under the dunes will take place at the end of August; excavation work under the Noord-Hollands Canal is scheduled for April 2006. The HDD technique is currently also being used on the UK side.