MOUNDSVILLE - In order to meet what the company calls an increasing demand for natural gas on the East Coast, Dominion Resources has plans to send supplies of natural gas produced in the Upper Ohio Valley to North Carolina via its Southeast Reliability Project pipeline system.
However, some residents in Pocahontas and Randolph Counties in southeastern West Virginia fear the proposed 42-inch diameter pipelines will disturb their way of life because of earthmoving and the presence of compressor stations.
Dominion spokesman Frank Mack said his company is in the "preliminary stages" of planning the pipelines, which would run through West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. He said the company is conducting surveys to determine the best possible route to transport natural gas from the local region to the southeast.
Compressor stations such as this one in Ohio County soon could be appearing across West Virginia as Dominion Resources is planning a pipeline project that would transport natural gas produced in the Upper Ohio Valley to Virginia and North Carolina. -- Casey Junkins
Mack said Dominion has not decided the exact diameter of these proposed pipelines, but concerned residents insist they would be 42 inches.
"The gas will be coming from the Marcellus Shale formation, and producers are drilling mostly in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, but also Ohio," he said. "If approved, we would anticipate project construction in 2017 and 2018, with service to our customers beginning as early as the end of 2018."
Mack said Dominion wants to ship natural gas produced in this region south to meet the needs of some electricity producers that are shifting their fuel sources from coal to gas to meet new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency greenhouse gas standards, while other industrial and residential users also are potential customers.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission must approve Dominion's plan once the route is finalized. Mack said the company would also take information from the public, noting the company would seek the best route possible.
The project is being met with anything but open arms. Lauren Ragland, spokeswoman for a group of concerned residents known as "West Virginia Wilderness Lovers," fears that pipeline projects such as Dominion's will disturb the Mountain State's natural beauty, particularly around the Monongahela National Forest.
"Our main concerns are that (the pipelines are) 42 inches. That has to disrupt the land and the mountains," she said. "And it is not just the pipeline -- it is the many giant compressor stations.
"This is all happening so fast," Ragland said. "We are not anti-pipeline or anti-natural gas. We just want to educate people about what this is really going to do."
Natural gas compressor stations are typically placed at 40- to 100-mile intervals along a pipeline that takes natural gas to market. Compression is required to get the gas to move through the pipeline.
The natural gas enters the compressor station via the pipeline that is connected to gathering lines, which are connected to individual gas wells. At the station, the gas is compressed by either a turbine, motor or engine.
In numerous legal advertisements over the past few years, natural gas drillers and processors state that compressor stations have the potential to discharge various amounts of pollutants such as:
"Our quiet peaceful nights with bright stars over the mountains would be destroyed by compression stations every 10-40 miles with two-story turbines roaring 24 hours a day," Ragland said.
However, Mack emphasized that Dominion would thoroughly inspect and monitor any pipelines it installs, while performing regular maintenance and cleaning to help prevent any problems.
"Safety and preventive measures are at the core of Dominion's values that are supported by the company's extensive Integrity Management and Damage Prevention programs," Mack added.
FERC approves and regulates the rates and services offered by the pipelines. The design, construction, operation and maintenance of the pipelines, if constructed, would fall under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.