NTSB Faults NiSource/Columbia for WV Pipeline Explosion in 2012

accident waiting to happenOn December 11, 2012, a portion of the Columbia Gas Transmission pipeline (owned by Nisource) exploded near Sissonville, WV, 10 miles north of Charleston. The resulting fire burned for more than an hour and shut down a portion of nearby Interstate 77 for days (see Columbia NatGas Pipeline Explodes Near Charleston, WV). It’s been a long time coming, but on Monday the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), that did a full investigation of the explosion, turned in their final report. It was pretty damning for NiSource/Columbia. The conclusions of the investigators are that a) the pipe had corroded in that section–a long time ago, and b) Columbia hadn’t inspected that section of pipeline since (unbelievably) 1988. In other words, it was an accident waiting to happen.

Below we have the press release from the NTSB with their high level findings, then the full 32-page report released Monday, and finally, the lame response issued by NiSource/Columbia “thanking” the NTSB for just ripping them a new one…
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Marcellus Companies Move Offices from Charleston to SW PA

A few days ago MDN told you that county officials in some West Virginia counties, like Wood and Pleasants counties, believe drilling may be headed in their direction in the not-too-distant future (see Drilling Creeps Southward According to WV County Clerks). However, the reality on the ground right now is that there have been either no, or perhaps one or two, permits issued for horizontal (shale) drilling in Wood and Pleasants counties (stats come from the latest edition of the Marcellus and Utica Shale Databook).

Another county even further south is Kanawha County, home of the state capitol Charleston. Kanawha has also seen a few permits, but little or no shale drilling yet. In the ramp-up of Marcellus and Utica drilling, a number of drilling-related companies established administrative offices in Charleston. But that’s now changing. Why?…
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ECA Breaks Ground on WV Regional HQ, Donates $600K to Clay Center

Last week Energy Corporation of America (ECA), an oil and gas driller with more than a million acres of leases in the Marcellus and Utica Shale region and operating 4,600 (mostly conventional) wells, broke ground on a new 60,000 square foot company eastern regional headquarters in Charleston, WV. They also made a $600,000 donation to the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences.

From the company press release:
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ECA Moving/Expanding NE Headquarters to Charleston, WV

Energy Corporation of America (ECA) will unveil plans today to move its eastern regional headquarters from “over the river” in Kanawha City, WV into Charleston, WV proper—at the Northgate Business Park. The new 60,000 square-foot facility is a good sign that ECA will continue to expand its presence in the Marcellus Shale. Headquartered in Denver, CO, ECA owns over 1 million acres of leases from New York to Tennessee, and operates over 4,600 wells (mostly conventional) and over 5,000 miles of pipeline. Most of their northeast operations are in West Virginia.

More on the new office building:

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Thinning Pipeline Caused Explosion Near Charleston, WV

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), part of the U.S. Dept. of Transportation, has issued a corrective order to Columbia Gas (subsidiary of NiSource) dealing with the pipeline explosion near Sissonville, WV on Dec. 11 (see this MDN story). The PHMSA found that the pipeline section that exploded, which was built in 1967, was getting too thin:

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Columbia NatGas Pipeline Explodes Near Charleston, WV

This is big news because it’s so extremely rare: A 20-inch natural gas transmission pipeline—the Columbia Gas Transmission pipeline (owned by Nisource)—exploded near Sissonville, WV, 10 miles north of Charleston. The resulting fire burned for more than an hour and has shut down a portion of nearby Interstate 77 for at least two days.

The explosion happened not far from the Lanham Compressor Station, although there is no indication the compressor station had anything to do with the explosion. An investigation into the explosion is just beginning and there are few known facts. The (rather thin) details as we know them:

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Kanawha County’s First CNG Vehicle: $1.89/Gal. to Fill it Up

Earlier this week Kanawha County, WV got its first county vehicle converted to run on compressed natural gas (CNG)—a 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe. They filled it up for the gasoline equivalent of $1.89 a gallon (gasoline currently runs close to $4 per gallon).

It cost $12,000 to convert it to run on both CNG and gasoline, but the county figures by saving more than 50% on each fill-up, it won’t take long to make that money back.

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Aither Chemicals Still Trying for a Cracker Plant in WV

never give upWill West Virginia ever get its own ethane cracker plant? It will if Aither Chemicals, based in South Charleston, WV has any say in the matter. MDN has been following the Aither story for some time. Aither Chemicals, a spin-off/subsidiary of Mid-Atlantic Technology, Research & Innovation Center, was established to build and operate ethane cracker plants that use modern technology making the plants smaller and less expensive to build and operate than tradition cracker plants (see this MDN story for background).

Aither had a deal in principle with Bayer CropScience and MarkWest Energy to build one of these “new” kinds of cracker plants in the Charleston, WV area. That deal was set to be officially announced in mid-March (see this MDN story). But then the wheels came off the wagon and all was silent. No deal, no announcement. Until now.

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New Movement on the Aither Chemicals Cracker Plant in WV?

A month and a half ago it seemed imminent that Aither Chemicals would announce they would build a new ethane cracker plant at the Bayer CropScience plant site at Institute Industrial Park, located in Kanawha County, near Charleston, WV (see this MDN story). Bayer CropScience, owner of the site, and MarkWest Energy, a huge pipeline company, were named as potential partners in the deal. But the expected announcement never came, and all has been silent since.

An article in the Charleston Daily Mail caught MDN’s eye, an article that says the local city of Nitro, WV have filed a petition with Kanawha County to annex 44 properties surrounding the Bayer CropScience plant. The properties in that area of the county are unincorporated—no official town or city municipal government control—and if Nitro annexes the property surrounding the plant, it prevents any other communities from trying to annex the plant itself at some future date.

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Aither Chemicals to Announce WV Ethane Cracker Plant

Aither Chemicals logoOne of the companies that has been sniffing around the concept of building an ethane cracker plant in the Marcellus/Utica region is Aither Chemicals. MDN wrote about Aither’s interest in building a cracker plant in West Virginia back in January (see this MDN story). Aither retained a Pittsburgh investment firm to help them secure funding for the project.

It appears Aither has found a couple of partners and will make an announcement on Wednesday about their plan to build an ethane cracker plant in Institute Industrial Park, located near Charleston, WV. One of the partners is the current owner of the site: Bayer CropScience. The other partner is pipeline giant MarkWest Energy.

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Another New Entrant in the Ethane Cracker Plant Sweepstakes

winnerA new entrant has entered the ethane cracker plant sweepstakes, this one claiming they can build a cracker plant for one-third of the cost of others. Earlier this week, Keith Pauley, president and chief executive officer of the Mid-Atlantic Technology, Research & Innovation Center (MATRIC) said that MATRIC has launched a subsidiary company, Aither Chemicals, to leverage “off patent” technology created by Union Carbide in the 1970s that will make building an ethane cracker plant much less expensive than competing technologies.

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Surprise Announcement of Ethane Cracker Plant in WV

ethaneIn a surprise move, two West Virginians have announced their intention to build an ethane cracker plant in the state. Former state Supreme Court Justice Richard Neely and Ryan Cunningham, owner of Charleston-based Cunningham Energy have formed a partnership with a few others and will try to get the necessary permits and financing to build an ethane cracker plant on a 1,500-acre plot near Montgomery, WV.

Two large energy companies, Shell and an unidentified company, have said they will make announcements in January of 2012 on where they will build ethane cracker plants. West Virginia was hopeful that Shell or the other company would select their state. But Neely and Cunningham don’t want to leave it to chance—so they plan to move forward.

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Charleston WV Shows Community Support for Cracker Plant

Residents of Charleston, WV want large energy companies looking to locate an ethane cracker plant in the Marcellus region to know that residents of Charleston want it and welcome it with open arms. An online letter-writing campaign has been launched to show community support for the project, which is estimated to bring more than 12,000 new jobs and some $7 billion in economic activity to the region where it’s built.

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Marcellus Drilling May Help Save 200 Jobs at Bayer Plant in WV

The Bayer CropScience plant in Institute, WV is rumored to be downsizing. Currently 500 people are employed there, but the plant will soon stop making and storing the same chemical (MIC) that leaked in the Union Carbide chemical plant in Bhopal, India killing thousands back in 1984. If that happens, some 200 people will lose their jobs. But there may be hope to keep those jobs because of Marcellus Shale drilling:

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