By Cassie McClure
Published in the Las Cruces Sun News 10/04/2020.
When a gas pipe needs to be repaired in the field, it takes a steady hand and plenty of knowledge. It is also a process that needs yearly certification and Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) hosts and trains not only its staff, but other City of Las Cruces (City) associates and contractors who may also work with City gas lines.
“Anyone who works on the Las Cruces Gas System needs to prove that they know the standardized procedures and the regulations to keep the integrity of the entire system,” said Pete Duran, LCU Interim Gas system operations supervisor. “It’s not just about rules, it’s about safety. Everyone must pass with 100 percent.”
The yearly certification gives the chance for review, but also a chance for crews to learn about any federal or state regulation changes that may have been implemented. It also gives LCU staff an opportunity to get to know other welders with contractors and City associates in Public Works. Plus, everyone can share what they have seen in the field.
“We’re looking for them to detect and work around abnormal operating conditions they might find in the field,” said Case Van Dyke, LCU Gas services training & safety coordinator. Each member at the training not only sat through the training but had to pass a written test and complete observed hands-on fusing of pipes in different diameters.
LCU Senior Gas Welder Lupe Valdez went through the process step-by-step, waiting for the iron to heat up to above 400 degrees Fahrenheit. He measured and shaved the edges of a pipe to make them even. The yellow poly pipe is held in a vice, and even though Valdez is almost an old hand and makes it look easy, he acknowledges that this is easy compared to being 6-feet deep into a muddy trench, beaten down by the sun, the wind, or rain.
Valdez measured the temperature, and then pressed it quickly against the yellow pipe, and watched for the right type of curl to happen on the outside edges. In an instant, he removed the iron and placed the two ends of the pipe together and waited for the fusion to set. It can happen in a few seconds to a few minutes, but there are variables depending on the pipe. And, what Van Dyke wants to see, is how it looks on the inside.
After the fused pipe cools, the trainers cut open the pipe to make sure that the inside weld is even. Then, those pipes are marked with the specific state identification number and keep for a year in case of audit.
LCU can be reached at 575-528-3500 from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. LCU provides services to approximately 100,000 Las Cruces residents and businesses.
PHOTO 1: LCU Senior Gas Welder Lupe Valdez checks the temperature of the iron before fusing the yellow poly pipe. Everyone who works on the LCU Gas System must take yearly certifications to make sure they preserve the integrity of the entire Natural Gas System – and keep residents safe.