Gas dehydration station troublesome

Last updated: May 04. 2014 11:34PM - 2115 Views
By Jon O’Connell

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The state Department of Environmental Protection wants to assure state Rep. Karen Boback it is keeping up on the incident-prone natural gas processing plant in Beaumont.

In a letter to Boback dated April 28 and made public by DEP last week, department Secretary Chris Abruzzo updated the Harveys Lake representative on recent events that raised the ire of her constituents living near the facility.

Abruzzo detailed communication with Regency Energy Partners of Dallas, Texas, and Williams Transco of Houston, Texas, both companies with operations at the Chapin Dehydration Station along state Route 309 in Wyoming County.

Last month, Boback had called for a full investigation into incidents and inspection of the plant’s safety equipment.

To date, there have been eight incidents that summoned emergency crews since 2012 and starting shortly after it went on line. Last month, emergency crews were on the scene three times in as many days.

Boback did not release a copy of her letter, but told The Times Leader in an email she wants to keep gas industry businesses operating in a safe and responsible manner.

“When companies aren’t playing by the rules, I will work to hold them accountable,” Boback said.

Incidents at Chapin

The Chapin plant is part of the natural gas transportation process. The gas is pumped down from a northern Wyoming County compressor station. Chapin uses the chemical glycol to strip moisture from the natural gas. The oderant mercaptan also is added to the gas, which on its own is odorless.

According to Abruzzo:

• In one April 6 incident, a cracked fire tube had allowed glycol from a reboiler to leak into a fire chamber, causing yellow smoke to rise into the air. Regency found the same problem in the plant’s second fire tube.

• On April 7, high temperatures caused the thermal oxidizer, equipment that reduces pollution output, to shut down.

When Regency technicians were restarting the thermal oxidizer, flames emitted from the vent stacks and could be seen by residents, who called the fire department.

• An incident on April 8, in which residents were alarmed by a strong rotten-egg smell, occurred because a storage building was left open during routine mercaptan tank-changing. This allowed mercaptan odors to be blown off site by the wind.

Follow-up visit

DEP inspectors visited the plant on April 15 to look at the reboilers and to look inside the mercaptan building, Abruzzo said. Everything checked out OK, he said.

Regency and Williams representatives have said their companies are working within the state limits and striving to be good neighbors.

Williams spokesman Chris Stockton said the company regrets the inconvenience caused by the mercaptan leak. Vicki Granado, a Regency spokeswoman, said safety for the community and environment is a top priority for her company.

Abruzzo said it is apparent both companies are applying due diligence to ensure similar incidents do not happen again.

“To ensure that this remains the case, DEP personnel will continue to closely monitor and inspect activities at the Chapin facility,” Abruzzo said.

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