NGL Pipelines – Newest Health & Safety Threat

We are familiar with oil and natural gas pipelines.  There are several of these crossing Ohio, including the NEXUS and ROVER natural gas transmission lines that move natural gas from the shale fields of eastern Ohio to Michigan and then to export across the border with Canada.

What is not as familiar are NGL (Natural Gas Liquids) pipelines.  Natural Gas Liquids, like ethane, butane, pentane, propane, and isobutane are produced by some shale wells in Marcellus and Utica shales.  These products have their own long-distance transmission lines.  The Utopia line, running from Harrison County in Ohio to Windsor, Ontario is one of these NGL pipelines.  The proposed Falcon Pipeline, now in the permitting process, is another.  It would run from Harrison County, Ohio, through a small part of West Virginia, and into Washington County, Pennsylvania, crossing the Ohio River on the way.

According to a Canadian Study (Public Safety Risk Assessment of Natural Gas Liquids, Zelinsky & Springer, 1996) NGL compounds like ethane “have a high vapor pressure, and when accidentally released, may form a flammable dense gas cloud.  If the cloud is ignited, a flash fire or vapor cloud explosion may occur.”

Such an explosion of an ethane pipeline did occur in 2015 in Brooke County, West Virginia.  According to a report in the Wheeling Intelligencer, the resulting fire continued for some time.  Fortunately, no one was killed, but some families had to be evacuated.

But back to the Falcon Pipeline which would cross the Ohio River.  A rupture and leak of that line could add to contamination of the river.   Moreover, the Falcon Pipeline would be just part of a sprawling new petrochemical complex in the Ohio Valley that would extend from Pennsylvania all along the Ohio River to Huntington, West Virginia and into Kentucky.  This will be the rise of yet another “cancer alley.”

Is this the price of economic development---that the health and safety of our fellow citizens has to be sacrificed? And when all the gas and NGLs run out, what kind of a mess will be left behind? And who, if anyone will clean it up? If we want to know the answers to those questions, just look at the record of the coal mining industry in West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania--- ruined land, ruined water, and a sickened and impoverished population.