A Modern Pipeline Story Comes to Life in The Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal nails the story “Huge Pipeline Delivers Bonanza to Towns on Route.”

What makes it compelling?

Let’s start with timing.

After slaving on this 1,679-mile wonder, the last leg is now being laid and welded. The end is literally in sight.

With a helping hand from REX’s PR department, Journal writer Ann Davis offers ample quantification:

  • Last leg of the pipeline cost $6.7B

  • Used 1.4M tons of steal

  • Welded 110,814 sections of 42-inch pipe

  • Negotiated with 6,530 landowners for rights of way

Side note: Can you imagine? I can’t even get my neighbors to trim their avocado tree hanging over our front yard.

  • Worked 27 million man-hours

  • Created 10,000 jobs

  • Reduced the premium the East pays over the West to 17 cents per million British thermal units from $2.77

I’ve evangelized the power of the anecdote, which Ms. Davis showcases throughout the piece starting with misplaced varmints:

“To avoid disturbing the endangered Indiana bat, crews in Ohio had to clear trees in the dark and in warm weather when bats wouldn’t roost. Biologists monitored their every move.”

Nice touch bringing in the binocular brigade for a little tension.

But the best anecdote comes from the periphery:

Dry cleaners are starching uniforms for welders so sparks will bounce off their clothes and not burn holes.

Good imagery. I’m guessing the heavy starch box gets the checkmark.

And rather than shackle the pipeline with esoteric nomenclature, the good folks from Kinder Morgan Energy Partners dubbed the pipeline REX. Even I get the double entendre to the land of oil and gas, TEX.

Aside from a few pesky analysts questioning Kinder’s financial return, this is a feel-good story that delivers.

Kinder’s president of natural-gas pipelines and COO Steven Kean sums up the undertaking with the Zen-ish reflection:

“Everybody really needed the pipe. The question was: Who was going to build it?”

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3 comments

3 Comments so far

  1. Jock Breitwieser October 8th, 2009 2:06 pm

    Lou,

    You would’ve made for an incredible surgeon!
    Thanks for a great job on precisely disecting the story. I’m pretty sure it was the elements you highlighted and analyzed, that made Ann Davis decide she wanted to cover the story in the first place. These nuggets are incredible! For us practitioners in the daily grind, it’s your kind of analysis that tells us what to look for and which different angles to take, when our companies/clients tell us to “just go and place the article already.” Digging for nuggets and humanizing the story is truly what it’s all about.

  2. Lou Hoffman October 9th, 2009 12:25 pm

    Jock,

    Thanks for weighing in.

    I liked this example because one doesn’t automatically associate building a pipeline with tales of lore.

    But Davis crafts a good read.

    Lou

    P.S. Love the anecdote about the dry cleaner making sure to use enough starch to repel sparks.

  3. Sarah Lafferty October 12th, 2009 2:58 am

    Lou,

    The facts and figures like “27 million man hours”, “10,000 jobs”,”1.2 tons of steel” conjure up images of honest hard work, which has to inspire readers at a time when people are disillusioned by less ‘salt of the earth’ professions like banking. This is clever journalist and psychology on the part of the WSJ. Thanks for breaking it down so clearly.

    Sarah

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