Pipeline plans could help distribute Garfield County gas
Two pipelines in far-northwestern Colorado are being proposed to help distribute natural gas produced in part in Garfield County.However, one of the proposals no longer includes a possible pipeline extension from Meeker to Parachute, to serve local Williams Production wells.The El Paso Pipeline Group’s Piceance Basin Expansion Project includes plans to build a 143-mile, 24-inch-diameter pipeline from the Greasewood Compressor Station near Meeker to another station near Wamsutter, Wyo. The north-south line would connect with pipelines that reach markets in the Midwestern and eastern parts of the United States.A second pipeline project, Entrega’s, would follow a parallel course from Meeker to Wamsutter, and then head east to near Cheyenne, said Tom Hershman, project manager for the BLM for both pipelines.Williams, one of El Paso’s customers, needs to transport gas from the Roan Cliffs Meter Station at Parachute to the Meeker station. When El Paso filed its pipeline application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management asked that it include the possible extension in its application, even though Williams rather than El Paso would probably build it, Hershman said.The BLM was hoping to avoid having to do a supplemental environmental impact statement on the extension later, Hershman said.But Williams has since asked that the extension no longer be included in El Paso’s application.”Williams is exploring several options, which may mean they don’t have to build another pipeline,” Hershman said.Williams may be able to use existing pipelines to transport the gas instead, he said.Ironically, one option may be to use the American Soda pipeline that was built to move its nahcolite product from a mine about 70 miles northwest of Parachute to its processing plant near Parachute. American Soda this year decided to mothball its mine and nahcolite processing operations.American Soda was formed in 1996 by Williams Sodium Products, a sister company of Williams Production. Williams sold American Soda a year ago to Solvay Chemicals.Now, Hershman said, Williams may look at repurchasing the pipeline or getting an agreement to use it.”There are several options out there and we’re sort of stuck right now,” Hershman said of the BLM and FERC.Hershman said the BLM is supposed to assess the cumulative environmental impacts of the El Paso project. Ideally, that would include considering any new pipeline Williams might build.”We want to be able to analyze how that gas is getting to Greasewood,” he said.Varying projects and timelines are adding a level of complexity to the job for federal agencies that are regulating construction of pipelines serving Garfield County’s burgeoning natural gas fields.The BLM must address cumulative environmental impacts of the El Paso and Entrega projects – two projects that will follow a similar course, but were proposed at different times. El Paso’s project has just gone through an initial public comment period, while Entrega’s proposal is farther along.”Right now they’re on separate tracks because of the timing of the projects,” Hershman said.The BLM also is considering an application by EnCana Oil & Gas to run a pipeline from DeBeque to the Greasewood station, following the TransColorado natural gas pipeline corridor, Hershman said. EnCana is the largest natural gas producer in Garfield County.Hershman said the BLM would have preferred to study the EnCana proposal as part of its environmental impact statement for the Entrega pipeline. But the EnCana project is still in its initial stages so that couldn’t happen.Already, the El Paso proposal is stirring concerns regarding possible environmental impacts. The Western Colorado Congress and the Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley wrote the FERC, as did the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance and Wyoming Outdoor Council. They raised concerns about impacts on air, water, wildlife and native vegetation, and spreading of weeds and dust. The federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention identified some of these same issues as worthy of consideration by the BLM and FERC. Hershman said environmentalists would like to see the BLM consider environmental impacts where the gas is drilled and produced in places such as Garfield County, as it evaluates the proposals for pipelines that would ship that gas to market.”Realistically we just can’t do that, from a practical point of view,” he said.The Biodiversity Conservation Alliance/Wyoming Outdoor Council even asked that the environmental impact statements for the El Paso and Entrega pipelines consider the degree to which they will further foster natural gas use, bringing about global climate change.”I’m not sure how to assess the impact a pipeline would have on global warming,” Hershman said.Still, he said, “There are a lot of cumulative impacts and we are taking them seriously.”Hershman said that “in a perfect world,” El Paso and Entrega would share the same pipeline. While the BLM can’t require that, it can require that they share the same right of way where that is feasible, he said.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. email@example.com
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