Residents Want to Keep Natural Gas Compressor Out of Somerset County
NJTV News Online | April 26, 2017
Spokesman for operator says people will hardly notice it’s there, but locals fear noise and pollution at the very least
Residents of Franklin Township, South Brunswick, and neighboring communities in Somerset County are rushing to register their objections to a proposed natural gas compressor station with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission before a looming Thursday deadline.
Worried residents say the proposed 52-acre site of the station is in the middle of a residential community and would produce loud noise, air and water pollution and, perhaps, worse.
The station would act like an electrical transformer, pushing natural gas north to 1.8 million customers in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island. It would run “on natural gas, methane and it produces all kinds of VOCs — volatile organic compounds — and other debris and particulate matter that could also cause all kinds of health problems for lungs and cancer,” said Franklin Township resident Ed Potosnak, who is also executive director of the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters.
The Oklahoma-based Williams Companies, the station operator, says it would take up about six acres, with most of the rest of the 52-acre site left as a buffer. Williams Companies spokesman Chris Stockton said people are “really not going to even know it’s there.” South Brunswick Councilman Joe Camarota said “… the most egregious issue, at least from my laymen’s perspective, is that this is an active mining drilling site. It’s on a quarry, trap rock quarry. They’re still actively mining and blasting.
The project has been designed to provide up to 180,000 dekatherms per day of natural gas service in two phases to a new delivery point with New Jersey Natural Gas in Burlington County, N.J. The project will include the installation of a new compressor station, meter and regulating station on land located in Burlington County, N.J. It will also require modifications and the addition of compression at an existing compressor station. No expansion of the pipeline is required.
- A new meter and regulating station on the Transco Trenton Woodbury Lateral in Burlington County, New Jersey
- The uprate of an existing electric motor drive to 25,000 horsepower and modification of the associated compressor unit at an existing Transco compressor station in Mercer County, N.J.
- Related appurtenant underground and aboveground facilities.
- A new 30,500 horsepower, electric motor-driven compressor station and associated electrical substation on the Transco Trenton Woodbury Lateral in Burlington County, N.J.
- The uprate of two existing electric motor drives to 16,000 horsepower each and replacement of the associated compressor units at an existing Transco compressor station in Mercer County, N.J.
- Related appurtenant underground and aboveground facilities.
Interstate natural gas pipelines are regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). As such, FERC requires pipeline operators to obtain a federal Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, in addition to various state permits, before any pipeline facilities can be built.
Williams submitted an application to the FERC for the Garden State Expansion project in February 2015. The project was assigned Docket Number CP15-89 (view application the here). Following a comprehensive environmental review, FERC approved the project in April 2016.
[click to read Williams news release]
- February 2015 – FERC filing
- April 2016 — FERC approval
- Third Quarter 2017 – Place Phase 1 into service
- Second Quarter 2018 – Place Phase 2 into service
Artistic rendering of Transco pipeline compressor facility 206
The scope of the Northeast Supply Enhancement project includes the construction of a new natural gas fueled compressor station located along the existing Transco pipeline in Somerset County, N.J.
Compressor stations, sometimes called pumping stations, are the “engine” that powers a pipeline. Transmission pipeline companies typically install compressor stations every 40 to 100 miles. The size and number of compressors varies, based on the diameter of the pipe and the volume of gas to be moved. Most compressor facilities are completely automated, so the equipment can be started and stopped from a pipeline’s central control room.
Not all compressor facilities are the same. The design and operation of interstate transmission pipeline compressor facilities is overseen by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, as well as the U.S. Department of Transportation. Compressor facilities which support gathering or intrastate pipelines are not subject to many of the same strict design and operating requirements.
Williams has identified its preferred location as a 52-acre tract located in Somerset County, N.J., approximately one mile south of the intersection State Highway 27 and County Route 518 in Franklin Township. The site is formally known as Alternative Site 3 (also known as Site B).
The site was selected because it minimizes potential impacts to residential areas as well as to environmental resources, such as wetlands and waterbodies. The facility is being designed to be situated on less than 10 acres, with the majority of acreage left as a wooded buffer surrounding the station.
Artistic rendering of Station 206 at site alternative 3
The criteria used to identify potential facility locations included proximity to the existing Transco pipeline, property availability, access to electric power, pipeline hydraulics, land use and land development, site terrain, water table and storm water management, and site accessibility. Williams also evaluates a number of environmental factors, including potential impacts to nearby residences.
As part of the FERC application process, Williams will develop a detailed analysis of the project’s effect on wildlife, vegetation, wetlands, water bodies and groundwater, geology, soils, land use, air and noise quality.
Station 206 will feature two Mars 100 natural gas-fired turbine compressor units to ensure maximum reliability. The units will be located inside of an enclosed, sound-attenuating building.
The station will include the following facilities:
- A 80 x 120 compressor building to house the compressors
- A power control room building
- An office/warehouse building
- A small drum-storage building
- A telecommunications building
- A communications tower
Venting / Blowdowns
A station “blowdown” refers to a controlled release of natural gas that is vented to the atmosphere. Natural gas, which is mostly composed of methane, is colorless, odorless, and lighter than air. When released into the air it rapidly rises and dissipates. “Mercaptan” is the odorant that is added to natural gas to give it the rotten eggs smell. In an emergency situation, or in anticipation of planning system maintenance, Transco may conduct a controlled venting of gas from the facility. While blowdowns are a standard operational practice, they do not occur at regular intervals and would occur infrequently (possibly once per year) at this location. Prior to a blowdown taking place, local emergency officials and nearby residents are alerted. Gas is directed through a filter to remove the odorant and through a silencer to reduce the noise.
The facility will be designed in such a way that it is not noticeable to nearby residents. Per federal regulation, the sound emitted from our operation cannot exceed 55 dBA at the nearest noise sensitive area (station fence line). The facility enclosure will include approximately nine inches of sound-buffering insulation. Transco will conduct a pre-construction study to measure existing noise levels at the location of the proposed station. A post-construction noise survey will be completed after construction is complete to demonstrate that the compressor station complies with sound requirements
The facility would not create vibration at levels perceptible to the human body.
Transco plans to install Dark Sky compliant LED lighting at the compressor station. This lighting directs light downward to reduce the light visible from neighboring properties. Nighttime lighting will be minimized to provide only enough light for station security under normal operations.
The regulatory and permitting process for interstate natural gas transmission compressor stations is robust, protecting the health and safety of the public living near compressor stations. Station 206 will be classified as a minor source of air emissions for permitting purposes and will feature state of the art emission control technology. This includes Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) technology, which is used to significantly reduce emissions. This technology is similar to the catalytic converter used on cars and trucks to reduce motor vehicle emissions.
In addition, federal new source performance standards require LDAR monitoring for new/modified emission sources to protect air quality.
For more information on how the regulatory process protects those living near natural gas transmission compressor stations, view this 2016 study prepared by Trinity Consultants.
The Transco pipeline has safely operated in Somerset County since 1950s. According to U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) statistics, pipelines are the safest method for transporting energy. As this Project is designed, constructed and operated, Transco is committed to maintaining the highest standards of safety, utilizing construction and operational procedures that exceed already stringent industry regulations.
- Station monitored 24 / 7 by centralized operations control center.
- Facility will feature state-of-the-art automatic emergency shutdown systems.
- Design requirements based on its area classification, which are based on population density in the vicinity of the proposed facility
- Facility will be equipped with federally-required and industry-recognized safety features such as pressure relief valves, emergency shutdown systems, and gas/ fire detection devices.
- Computerized controls designed for remote operation.
- Site specific emergency response plans will be prepared in consultation with local responders.