Pipeline to run from W.Va. to N. Carolina

MOUNDSVILLE – Dominion Resources and its partners plan to build a 550-mile pipeline at a cost of $5 billion to transport Marcellus and Utica shale natural gas for use in North Carolina, but some residents of Pocahontas and Randolph counties in southeastern West Virginia believe the 42-inch diameter project will disrupt their way of life.

Dominion – which co-owns Marshall County’s Blue Racer Natrium plant and its related infrastructure with Caiman Energy – originally proposed the pipeline as the Southeast Reliability Project. Tuesday, Dominion CEO Thomas F. Farrell II joined fellow CEOs Lynn J. Good of Duke Energy, Thomas E. Skains of Piedmont Natural Gas and John W. Somerhalder II of AGL Resources to announce the companies’ combined efforts to now call the project the “Atlantic Coast Pipeline.”

As officials hope to have the pipeline in service by 2018, pending Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval, the infrastructure would transport 1.5 billion cubic feet of shale natural gas per day from Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania through the line running from Harrison County, W.Va. to central North Carolina.

“The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a transformational project for our region. It will create thousands of construction jobs during development and significant new revenue for state and local governments throughout North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. The expanded source of gas will also help fuel economic development across the region as businesses and homes rely more on natural gas,” the four CEOs said jointly.

According to the agreement, Dominion will build and operate the pipeline. The company has nearly 8,000 miles of interstate pipelines in six states, as well as a large natural gas storage system. The joint venture ownership stakes are: Dominion, 45 percent; Duke Energy, 40 percent; Piedmont, 10 percent; and AGL Resources, 5 percent.

“Natural gas is increasingly important for advanced electricity generation, contributing to significantly lower greenhouse gas and other emissions. The project will also provide more reliable access to new sources of natural gas, keeping consumers’ energy costs down – even during the coldest and hottest weather,” the CEOs added.

However, Lauren Ragland, spokeswoman for a group of concerned residents known as “West Virginia Wilderness Lovers,” fears this pipeline will disturb the Mountain State’s natural beauty, particularly around the Monongahela National Forest.

“Our main concerns are that it is 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. The risks to our ecosystem are real. We are concerned about not having a wilderness anymore.”

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.

“We just want to educate people about what this actually is. We do not oppose the natural gas industry as a whole, but people need to know what is going to happen,” Ragland said.

Both Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-Charleston, expressed support for the pipeline project.

“This pipeline would be a key component of our national energy infrastructure, which allows West Virginia gas to be transported across the country to provide secure, affordable domestic energy. Many West Virginians would fill new jobs, whether during construction or meeting the increased demand for our state’s natural gas,” Capito said.

“We appreciate the continued investments Dominion is making in our region and look forward to capitalizing on our state’s abundant supply of natural gas, which has the potential to provide promising opportunities for both current and future generations,” Tomblin said. “West Virginia is proud to continue its legacy as an energy-producing state and help create energy independence for our country.”