Appalachian Basin

Wine and Brie vs. Wine and Brine?

There has been a lot of talk from the wine and brie set about the integrity of a proposed liquid propane gas storage facility in the Watkins Glen area by a group called Gas Free Seneca, which is trying to turn that application into a debate over Marcellus Shale gas.  Shale gas isn’t involved, a point it’s opponents don’t seem to want to hear, so they raise extraneous issues such as this one.  Well, let us then address it!

The salt cavern Inergy has proposed to use as a storage facility has gone through extensive testing using MIT standards. As a technical consultant with many years of experience developing underground gas storage facilities, and one working on this particular project, I am very familiar with the testing and the process it must go through before ultimately being selected and approved. Please take a moment to read through this process below:

    • The proposed storage well has a production casing cemented into the salt and back to the surface wellhead.
    • A string of smaller diameter tubing is inserted through the API certified wellhead and hung just above the cavern bottom.  That tubing always contains salt water (brine).
    • Nitrogen gas is injected into the annulus between the production casing and the suspended brine tubing.
    • A logging tool is inserted into the brine tubing to prove that the interface between the nitrogen gas is floating on the brine in the cavern below the cemented casing seat.
    • The maximum operating wellhead pressure is monitored until the nitrogen gas and brine temperature equilibrate and there is no pressure decay.  Atmospheric pressure is factored into the pressure equilibrium determination.
    • When pressure stabilization occurs, the logging tool is once again inserted into the brine tubing to verify depth of the nitrogen/brine interface.  At the same time, a temperature and pressure survey of the well to below the interface is continuously recorded.
    • After 24 hours, the same interface, temperature and pressure surveys are once again obtained.
    • Since a well that has pressure integrity will show an overlay of the three obtained curves, the well can be certified for hydrocarbon storage under certain  State regulations, EPA 40 CFR, IOGCC, API, SMRI and Canadian recommendations.
    • Nitrogen gas is used for the mechanical integrity testing since a well will leak a gas more easily than a fluid such as brine.
    • In a worst case scenario where surface piping becomes severed, manual and emergency shutdown valves at the wellhead will stop any hydrocarbons from escaping from either the brine tubing or the production casing annulus between the stored product and the brine tubing.

This facility passed all of the required tests, which are available here , and is safe for the storage of liquid propane gas. We have spent two years effort on paperwork when the science is right in front of us.  Propane storage is nothing new to the Finger Lakes, and this facility will be just as safe, if not safer, than the existing one and those of the past.  So, can we now please move on from this debate to improving the economy of the Finger Lakes region?  Wine and brine have co-existed for years and will continue to do so. Just like wine and brie.

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