Another week brought yet another compressor station hearing per request by the Clean Air Council (CAC). This one was for four new facilities owned by Willams (formerly Laser) that will move gas through the new Windsor Pipeline (formerly Legacy Laser) from the Marcellus Shale in Susquehanna County to New York to be placed in distribution systems for end users in the state. This hearing was a little different from those we have seen before where individuals brought in by the CAC were the only ones to offer testimony. They were there, to be sure. However, as has been the case with many happenings in Susquehanna County, local residents, including members of Dimock Proud, turned out to tell the CAC enough is enough when it comes to speaking on behalf of their property rights.
The Science of Compressor Stations
A compressor station is a facility used during the midstream phase of natural gas development. It increases the pressure of the gas in one pipeline to move it into a higher pressure system. At these facilities, a company can also remove water or solids and measure the gas moving through the pipeline.
Williams provided an excellent explanation of these operations during the hearing. Think of the compressor station as the on-ramp to a highway. If you are entering a highway where the other cars are traveling at 55mph, you must bring your car up to this speed to enter the flow of traffic. If you are moving too slow, merging becomes difficult, or in the case of natural gas in a pipeline, it is actually impossible for it to enter without being at a higher pressure. These facilities, as can be seen in the following graphic, will increase the pressure of the natural gas coming from gathering systems to the transmission line.
These facilities will be employing the latest technology, including clean burning natural gas engines. They will be manned daily both in person for maintenance and inspections, as well as through a 24-hour remote monitoring system or Process Logic Control (PLC) system. The PLC system allows a remote user to monitor operations, involving hundreds of parameters at the facility from a computer, and ensure the facility operates according to the site’s permitted emissions.
With any engines, emissions will occur, but Williams has taken steps to significantly decrease their footprint, something the Clean Air Council seems to be ignoring. They will, for example, be using a lean fuel combustion mixture and an air/fuel ratio controller to reduce NOx emissions. The company will also be using oxidation catalysts to reduce other emissions, as demonstrated in the following graphic.
The oxidation catalyst is effective for the control of carbon monoxide (CO), non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHC), volatile organic compounds (VOC), formaldehyde (CH2O) and EPA classified Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) from natural gas and LPG lean-burn engines. The oxidation catalyst is also effective for catalytic combustion of VOC emissions from a variety of exhaust gas streams from industrial processes. http://www.dcl-inc.com/home/60
The oxidation catalyst, as noted above, is not meant to reduce NOx levels (controlled by other measures), but will drastically decrease other emissions levels.
Resident Opinions of Compressor Stations
It was obvious to us, and to local residents you will see in the following videos, Williams, like many companies operating in the Marcellus Shale, has taken great strides to reduce the environmental impact its operations have. So, while the Clean Air Council’s traveling minstrels from New York, Philadelphia and other parts of Pennsylvania, gave their usual spiels–same speech, different compressor station–it was refreshing to witness local residents come out to show their support of these facilities.
Jim Barber, of Barber Farms, was one of the residents who testified. One of the facilities will be located in his field. Watch him explain his decision to allow the compressor station to be built on his property.
Finally, I wanted to highlight one young woman who gave a very emotional testimony on our need to reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy. Gretchen Backer is a U.S. Army helicopter pilot. She describes her experience with friends fighting overseas and her hope, as a mother, for her children’s futures. Like so many others she wants her children to stay in the area and, thanks to the jobs the natural gas industry has provided the community, that’s a very real possibility.
Perhaps, at the next hearing, the Clean Air Council will take into account the needs and wishes of the property owners in these impacted regions. Perhaps, they’ll acknowledge how incredibly educated these residents are on the development occurring in their backyards. Of course, given past experience it seem this is likely just wishful thinking.Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!