Appalachian Basin

Compressor Station Filled With Natural Gas or Emotions?

The latest hearing for a proposed Luzerne County compressor station lasted over five hours with expert testimony from the applicant, UGI Energy Services.  UGI is looking to build the compressor station off North Ridge Lane with the intent of pressurizing natural gas coming from northeast counties.  The natural gas coming into this compressor station will then be used to supply the residents of Wilkes-Barre and Scranton with natural gas from the Marcellus Shale.  Residents are already getting a great deal from UGI and this project will only make it better.

Wilkes-Barre is located in Luzerne County and when asked if the compressor station was necessary UGI experts responded with a resounding “Yes.”  Take a look at the map below. Luzerne and Lackawanna Counties are large consumers of natural gas and with lower energy costs because of the current price of natural gas, more consumers are looking to convert.

UGI Coverage Area

Luzerne County residents can only secure more inexpensive natural gas if it is first transported to market with the help of a compressor station.  Many Luzerne County residents already utilize natural gas in their homes.  This compressor station will simply allow more residents access to this economically friendly, and clean burning, resource.

Reviewing UGI Project

Reviewing UGI Compressor Station Project

UGI opened the hearing by explaining the project in its entirety and what the overall impact on the community would be.  Everything was covered from the line of sight to the compressor station to air emissions.  They also made it clear that they were not working through this project alone and that the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has been involved every step of the way (16:00).  The DEP is currently reviewing the proposed plan by UGI and determining if they should supply an air quality permit.  When accepted it will be open for public view and comment.  If necessary the public can ask DEP for a public hearing on the permit.

The EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] has established emission limits for three particular pollutants that we cannot exceed in this type of project. Nitrous oxide emissions are half of what the EPA allows, carbon dioxide is 9.5% of what the EPA allows, volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions are 18.5% of the EPA limit. – UGI Expert

The proposed plan by UGI meets all state and federal guidelines and all air emissions are well below the EPA standard.  Further, natural gas as an energy source is cleaner burning and is a major reason we are experiencing 20 year lows in carbon dioxide emissions in the United States.

Greenhouse Emissions Chart

CO2 emissions for 2012 lowest since 1992

Noise Pollution

There were no criteria, in terms of noise pollution, set for UGI to meet so they are using the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) standards.

FERC requires that an applicant meet a level of 55 dBA at the closest noise sensitive area.  What we decided to do to be very very conservative was to meet that 55 dBA at 350ft from the compressor station.  350ft from this station is nothing but more woods.  The closest noise sensitive area to this facility which would be peoples houses is still another 2,000 feet away. -UGI expert

dBA Levels

Relating to dBA sound levels

The 55 dBA is a day and night average to account for the absence of  background noise at night.  Taking this into account the actual dBA level at 350 feet is 48.  The noise sources at this facility are the intake fans and compressors themselves.  With that being said, the compressor station will be built in such a way to ensure that 48 dBA is met at 350 feet.  This is achieved through the use of silencers on the fans and the overall structure of the facility.

Safety Precautions

Even though the station is not federally regulated, UGI has again taken it upon themselves to build and operate this facility to the strictest of standards.  The compressor station will be outfitted with gas detectors and fire eyes that will be used to monitor the facility around the clock (30:15).  There are three things needed for natural gas to light: fuel, oxygen and a source of ignition.  At 20% of the minimum level or lower explosive limit (LEL) the gas detectors will sound an alarm. This alarm will alert anyone on site, as well as in the offsite monitoring station of an issue.  Even before the chance of anything ever happening this alarm will sound, if the levels continue to rise and reach 40% of that LEL the station will automatically shut down.

As for the fire eyes they are designed to pick up anything that even resembles a flame. As soon as it recognizes something like this it will automatically shut down the facility (32:15) – UGI expert

The incident at Lathrop Compressor Station earlier this year, while unfortunate, provides a good example of how equipment like this works.

It is apparent from listening to UGI’s testimony the people involved in this project have decades of experience in projects like this and they have thought out and covered everything to make this facility safe for members of the community it will be built in.

After numerous outbursts during UGI’s testimony it was time for the public to comment on the UGI project. You can watch their presentation in its entirety below.

Public Testimony

The first point the couple in the following video tries to make is about the emissions from the compressor station.  These emissions have been addressed during the planning of the facility by UGI and are well below the federal limit mandated by the EPA.  VOC’s are commonly found in many household items including: paint, aerosol sprays, cleansers, disinfectants and many others.  Yes, these compressors stations do emit VOC’s, however the amount is far below what the federal government allows, it is within the limits of the proposed plan, and this facility  is a necessity if West Wyoming residents want to continue to use natural gas.

Another woman raises concerns about the location of the compressor station.  She, like many of the residents in West Wyoming want it to be built somewhere else.  This is a classic NIMBY mindset, and we can’t always have our cake and eat it too.  Moving this station out of the area and farther from existing infrastructure would cause a need for more compressor stations and pipelines to be laid.  She then raises concerns about the air quality from the compressor station.  When asked if she heard and understood the expert testimony from UGI she stated that she did not trust them.  Again, this is no longer about science but about feelings and emotions.

The women in this last video testimony is under the impression that the VOC’s will come down out of the air, and coat her vegetables.  This is simply not true and the 18.5% is the percentage of the allowed VOC emissions by the federal government.  The fact that she says “I don’t want to smell this during the summer,” shows that she has never been to a compressor station before.  I have been to them and stood less then a football field away. I can attest I did not smell or hear anything from the facility, and I think if others would take the time to look at similar facilities, they would find the same thing.

The West Wyoming town board is currently reviewing all testimony and will reconvene  at 7 p.m. on September 4th to vote on UGI Energy Services proposed plan for this compressor station. We’ll be there to update on its status.


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