Williams Isolates Pipeline Leak, No Injuries Reported

As Larry Hartley hiked up the steep hillside toward the surface of Reid Ridge Road, he was glad to report that Williams Partners managed to stop the leak in its 24-inch natural gas pipeline that ruptured Friday afternoon.

“There was no ignition and no fire. We are glad it was nothing but a bunch of noise and dust – and an inconvenience to the residents,” said Hartley, operations supervisor for Williams Partners in the Cameron District. “We are glad no one got hurt.”

The scene along Reid Ridge, roughly 4 miles south of Cameron, was a bit hectic earlier in the day, however. At roughly 12:20 p.m. Friday, a loud boom and a cloud of dust alarmed some residents. The racket occurred because the 24-inch methane pipeline connecting to the Williams Fort Beeler cryogenic processing plant – which typically transports about 120 million cubic feet of natural gas per day – ruptured.

Marshall County Emergency Management Deputy Director Mike Mucheck said about 30 area residents evacuated their homes for about two hours before they were cleared to return. He said the Cameron Volunteer Fire Department immediately dispatched to the scene upon receiving the 911 call, along with Marshall County sheriff’s deputies.

Additional personnel also responded but were allowed to stand down once they received word the situation was under control.

“There was no fire – thank goodness,” Mucheck said. “We have never had any problems with Williams at all. With as much work as there is going on in this county, you are bound to have something happen at some point.”

Hartley said the line was one that Williams recently installed, so he said officials would have to investigate the cause of the problem. The company expects to begin repairs on the damaged section of pipe as soon as next week.

Hartley emphasized this line carried only dry methane gas, as opposed to wet ethane, propane, butane or oil.

Companies like Tulsa, Okla.-based Williams are known in the oil and gas industry as processors or “midstreamers.” This is because Williams accepts wet Marcellus and Utica shale gas from drillers such as Chesapeake Energy, Gastar Exploration and Trans Energy.

Last year, Williams paid $2.5 billion to acquire the Fort Beeler plant and its related pipelines and facilities from Caiman Energy. Williams is also operating its fractionator, south of Moundsville along the Ohio River on the former Olin Chemical property.

At processing plants, midstreamers separate the methane from the liquids so that the methane can be sold by utility companies, such as Mountaineer Gas or Columbia Gas.

A fractionator separates ethane, propane, butane and other liquid portions of the gas stream from each other so the products can be individually marketed.