Work on $500M Gas Plant Continues

NATRIUM – Those driving by the $500 million Dominion Resources plant that is still under construction may see some natural gas flaring, but officials said this is part of the normal startup process.

“Under normal operating conditions, flaring will be very minimal – emphasis on very,” said Dominion spokesman Dan Donovan. “Flaring will also be intermittent and part of normal operations once the plant is in service.”

According to the National Geophysical Data Center, flaring is a widely used practice for the disposal of natural gas in areas where there is no infrastructure to make use of the gas. These officials believe the practice unloads unnecessary amounts of carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

At the Natrium plant – which is now part of the $1.5 billion processing and transportation venture between Dominion and Caiman Energy known as Blue Racer Midstream – once the wet Marcellus and Utica shale gas travels to the plant, the ethane, butane, propane and other natural gas liquids will be separated from the dry methane gas so that all the products can be individually marketed.

Upon separation from the gas stream, the propane and butane will be kept in tanks on the Dominion site to be marketed.

However, this cannot be done with ethane because of the product’s volatility, so the Blue Racer venture plans to ship the ethane to the Gulf Coast for cracking.

Some natural gas producers also flare off some volatile gases at drilling sites. Others burn off ethane because of the absence of an ethane cracker in the Marcellus and Utica shale regions.

Though the site buzzes daily with construction activity, the Natrium plant is already five months behind schedule.

It was initially set to open in December.

Throughout the plant’s construction along the Ohio River and W.Va. 2 in Marshall County, members of the Affiliated Construction Trades Foundation have been at odds with Dominion – as well as the company building the plant on Dominion’s behalf, Chicago Bridge & Iron – for not hiring more local workers to build the facility.

Total on-site worker numbers have fluctuated from about 84 to around 1,000 over the past year.

Workers also have installed railroad lines that will connect the Natrium plant to the CSX Corp. line, which is part of the historic Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. The company will use rail service to move its product.

The Natrium facility should employ 40-45 full-time, permanent workers in jobs at the plant itself upon completion.

Officials have said these jobs will pay $20-$30 per hour.

Dominion also is seeking permission from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to complete its Cove Point project in Maryland, at which the company would collect natural gas from the eastern United States. Dominion plans to liquefy, store and load the gas into ships brought to the facility on the Chesapeake Bay. Subject to regulatory approval, those facilities could be in service by 2017.

If approved and completed, the $3.8 billion gas liquefaction plant would send gas produced in the Upper Ohio Valley to be burned in Japan and India.