A Gas Pipeline Coming Through the Big Woods in Chesco!

It’s holiday time!  People aren’t generally thinking about gas pipelines coming through their communities.  Instead they are having eggnog and sharing gifts with one another and thinking about the New Year!

Well, this new year, folks in our area will be gathering around each other’s kitchen tables discussing the impact of a 30 inch gas pipeline that will help “power America”.

It looks like it is going to cut through the Big Woods at the end of Shenkel Road, opposite the section where the Shenkel Church is located.  That means it is going to slice through near Harmonyville, and Cold Spring Roads.

Right away I wanted to know what might happen if a 30 inch pipeline goes bang!  Cause unfortunately it happens, as it has recently in West Virginia.  Well, it turns out that it makes a huge firewall that isn’t immediately put out.  See, they don’t necessarily make them with automatic shut-off valves, and so a pipe can continue spewing it’s contents into the environment that is already flaming!

Now, if this were in a highly populated area that would be scary enough, no, our area is relatively unpopulated…but it is in the middle of a forest!  So, imagine if you will, what might happen when a huge fire starts in French Creek’s woods?

Blaaah, I don’t really want to imagine that, not after seeing what happened with the fire in French Creek this past year!  Remember the one that was allowed to burn itself out because it was difficult to get to….sigh.

Let’s talk about pipeline sizes…there appear to be several sizes, all with different regulations.  The item we are talking about here, the thirty inch pipe, is one of the biggies!  The next biggest is 36 inches.  And according to some of the news reports I found, pipes aren’t made to fit the local need, so contractors create welds in the piping.  It seems that those welds are often where the pipe has seemed to fail.  In addition, it sounds crazy, but some of the pipe when tested apparently doesn’t meet size requirements, in other words, sometimes it’s thicker than it should be and unluckily sometimes it’s thinner.

So let’s get back to what might happen in a worst case scenario.  Let’s say something happens like more pressure is put on the pipe than the 1,000 psi that is expected…our pipe will pop, and when it does it will create an earth shaking boom.  We probably won’t have to worry about a mudslide like they do in California, but we will probably have to deal with a forest fire.  The first 150  to 200 km surrounding the pierced pipe will be flamed away rather quickly.  A  crater might be left behind once the fire is put out.  The only other worry is “what goes up, must come down.”  Which means that any structures, or vehicles, or roads that are near the site may become projectiles.

The good news there is that the damage is restricted to a relatively small area, but now we have to worry about the fumes, which might take a while to dissipate.  Houses that are near the damage zone, will be evacuated.  Homes that are nearby will probably be asked to shelter indoors, which will mean residents will need to close all doors and windows and they’ll have to  try not to breathe!  ( I’m joking about that last bit.)

The weirdest bit of information I got this evening after reading about the nice shiny new pipeline is that there are  skads of paperwork that have to be filed by the companies handling these lines, but the paperwork isn’t necessarily going to protect anyone because there have already been multiple explosions.  The National Transportation Safety Board is called on to check these incidents- isn’t that weird?!  Of course they’ll come back later and tell us that the problem was with welding, or with not having a safety shut off valve, but they won’t have any authority to force the pipeline companies to make the necessary changes.  And life will go on as we all know it, except for the families directly impacted by the boom

So far, the good news for me personally  is that this pipe isn’t close enough to my house to send my place into space.  The bad news is the area I  was willing to be taxed extra to pay to remain “open space” is now going to be used by a for profit company to insert a 30 inch pipeline for fracking fuel.

Funny  how things turn out sometimes isn’t it?

Here is some information for you from a news site about the recent explosion of a ( some say 20, some say 30 inch pipe in W. Va.)  (( How is it that they aren’t even sure about how large the damn pipe was?))

“The site where the incident occurred has been secured and the fire — on a 20-inch transmission line — has been contained,” she said. “We have a team of employees working with first responders to assess damages and we’ll be working to accommodate the needs of affected residents.”

The National Transportation Safety Board later said the pipeline that exploded was 30 inches in diameter, though that remains unclear. Either way, Burd said a 20-inch or 30-inch pipeline is a significant size transmission line.

“They make them bigger than (20 inches) — 30 and 36 inch — but as far as pipelines go, 20 inches is very big.”

The NTSB arrived in West Virginia the night of Dec. 11 to begin investigating the cause of the explosion. Robert Sumwalt, a member of the NTSB, said at a Dec. 11 press briefing that the board was investigating a probable cause, but was focused on collecting perishable evidence.

“We are just in the fact-finding phases of this investigation,” he said. “This is just the very beginning of the investigation.”

Sumwalt pointed out that the NTSB usually gets called to the scene of aviation accidents, but its mission is to investigate all transportation-related accidents. Pipelines transport goods, so it is the NTSB’s responsibility to investigate this incident. However, he pointed out, the NTSB likely would not determine the cause of the blast.

“We will not determine the cause of the accident, and we will never speculate,” he said. “We will always try to deal with facts.”

Sumwalt said a section of the pipe would be cut out and transported to NTSB labs in Washington, D.C., where it would be scrutinized under a microscope. He expects NTSB to remain in Sissonville for up to a week.

Tom Miller, training officer with the Sissonville Volunteer Fire Department, said the gas line was large, and gas was violently released.

“It creates quite a concussive-like force,” Miller said.

According to the NTSB, the maximum allowable pressure for a pipe that size is 1,000 pounds per square inch. At the time of the rupture, the pressure was 929 psi. The pipeline is part of Columbia’s network of transmission lines that transports and delivers natural gas primarily to local utility companies, according to a statement from NiSource. Service to those local utilities was not affected by the explosion.

Miller said there were no fatalities associated with the blast as of 5 p.m. Dec. 10, but the fires damaged several homes. No vehicles were on the interstate as the blaze swept through, but a car on Route 21 was damaged and first responders were working to locate possible occupants.

Both NiSource and the fire department were working to gather information.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., issued a statement saying the explosion was “clearly terrible and dangerous.” He said as chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, he wants to know what went wrong.

“I’m in close contact with state and federal officials, as well as the company involved,” Rockefeller said. “It’s important that the National Transportation Safety Board is launching a team imminently to conduct a thorough investigation into how and why this happened, and that the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration will soon have someone on the scene. I will continue monitoring today’s developments, with hope for everyone’s continued safety, as we await a determination of the cause of this accident.”

Rockefeller introduced legislation that was signed into law in January that strengthened pipeline safety oversight by the federal government and addresses safety issues. The Commerce Committee has held three hearings in the past two years on pipeline safety, and Rockefeller highlighted pipeline safety as part of a field hearing in West Virginia last year on shale gas development. He has also requested a Government Accountability Office study on the safety of onshore gathering pipelines that are currently not subject to federal regulations.

The legislation calls for the installation of automatic or remote-controlled shut-off valves on new transmission pipelines. It is unclear if the pipe that exploded had such shut-off valves, but reports say gas continued to flow for about an hour, at reduced pressure, after the blast. It is also unclear how old this pipeline is or what material was used to construct it.

This isn’t the first time a natural gas pipeline has exploded in West Virginia. On Aug. 5, 2002, a pipeline exploded and caught fire west of Route 622 on Poca River Road near Lanham. Emergency workers evacuated some families who lived close to the explosion, and Kanawha and Putnam county residents in the area were asked to shelter in place. Parts of the pipeline were thrown hundreds of yards away, around and across Poca River. Crews could not contain the fire for several hours because valves to shut down the line did not exist. The glow of the flames could be seen for several miles.

Enjoy your holiday!







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