GreenHunter Still Eyes Panhandle for Pipeline

WHEELING – The destination point for GreenHunter Resources’ planned pipeline to carry water, brine and hydrocarbons through Pennsylvania and West Virginia to the Ohio River will be somewhere in the Northern Panhandle, according to its vice president of business operations, John Jack.

But Jack, citing ongoing right-of-way negotiations, said he cannot yet reveal the exact endpoint of the proposed pipeline, which would be built and owned by a Michigan firm, with GreenHunter having exclusive access to the 270,000-barrel-per-day system. GreenHunter purchased the former Seidler’s Oil Service property in Warwood in March 2013 with plans to build a facility to handle condensate, recycle wastewater from natural gas drilling operations and barge the material from the Wheeling facility.

Although the Wheeling site is a potential destination for the pipeline, Jack said GreenHunter may be looking to acquire additional riverfront property elsewhere in the Northern Panhandle. He declined to comment further.

Plans for the pipeline call for construction to begin early next year and for the system to be fully operational by the beginning of 2016. The system would consist of three pipelines – one each to transport fresh water, brine and hydrocarbons – from two undisclosed collection points, one in southwestern Pennsylvania and another in northern West Virginia.

GreenHunter’s plan to transport frack water by barge has drawn opposition from environmental groups who fear for the safety of their drinking water, including in Wheeling, where a group calling itself the Wheeling Water Warriors has vocally opposed the proposed Warwood plant. GreenHunter’s June 27 application to the Army Corps of Engineers to build a barge docking facility in Meigs County, Ohio, already has drawn fire from concerned residents and local officials.

But Jack points out that potentially harmful materials such as gasoline, diesel fuel and hydrochloric acid are transported on the nation’s rivers every day, and he maintains barging offers a low accident rate and helps keep heavy trucks from damaging roadways.

The proposed pipeline system is another way to reduce the number of trucks on the road, Jack said.

Although the Wheeling Planning Commission has approved the first phase of GreenHunter’s plan for the Warwood facility, Jack said the company continues to wait for the U.S. Coast Guard to rule whether it will allow barges to carry fracking waste on the nation’s inland waterways before beginning construction at the Wheeling site. The agency has received tens of thousands of comments on the issue and has yet to announce a timeline for issuing a ruling.

“Every indication is they’re coming close to finalizing a proposed policy,” Jack said.

Although the company remains in a wait-and-see mode, Jack said a ruling by the Coast Guard prohibiting the barging of frack waste on rivers wouldn’t prevent the company from moving forward in Wheeling.

“We’re currently trucking the material anyway,” he said of the company’s existing operations, which include a facility along Ohio 7 in New Matamoras.