It's the ultimate in drilling challenges -- a tunnel 50 feet under the Mississippi River bottom, traversing a distance of 3,705 feet.
For those boring the way for the new TransCanada Keystone Oil Pipeline it's just part of the job and not even the biggest challenge in this region. That honor lies on the northern end of Illinois' Carlyle Lake, where the pipeline will span a distance of 4,500 feet.
The process is known as horizontal directional drilling and is crucial to the construction of a 2,148-mile pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to Patoka, Ill. In all, 17 major bodies of water are being crossed, representing 7.25 miles of pipeline.
Along the Mississippi River, two drilling units are being set up on opposite banks.
Along the west bank, a rig is preparing to work just east of the Confluence State Park in St. Charles County, Mo.
Along the east bank, a drill will be up and going in about a week, just south of Hartford, Ill.
The pipeline, once it crosses the river, will run just south of Seventh Street in Hartford before eventually tying into the ConocoPhillips grounds on the southwest part of the refinery property.
TransCanada spokesman Jim Prescott compared the running of the pipeline under the river to the process of running new electric wire in an old house. Anyone who has done that knows it's a matter of running some kind of conduit as far as possible through walls and ceilings and pushing and pulling wiring through to reach the opposite end.
The pipe is being placed close to two existing oil pipelines built years ago, one by Shell Oil Co. and the other by Platte Pipeline Co.
Copyright (c) 2009, The Telegraph, Alton, Ill. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.