NATRIUM - Tom Hart said residents in the Kent area of Marshall County should not be alarmed to hear a loud siren at 11:30 a.m. today, as Blue Racer Midstream is testing a new emergency alert system in preparation of restarting the facility.
Marcellus and Utica Shale producers have been unable to use the giant processing plant along W.Va. 2 since a Sept. 21 accident caused a fire that burned for nearly eight hours, leading officials to evacuate 25 Kent area residents. In addition to closing W.Va. 2, CSX rail transportation was shut down as fire crews worked to extinguish the blaze. The fire eventually burned itself out.
"Blue Racer is testing their new alert system," said Hart, Marshall County Emergency Management director. "Following the accident, we met with them about the possibility of using the Axiall (Corp.) siren to alert the community in the event of an accident."
Axiall Corp. is the company that now operates the Natrium chemical complex formerly owned by PPG Industries. Blue Racer spokeswoman Casey Nikoloric confirmed the company is working with Axial to use its alarm system.
According to Nikoloric, the test should include several loud tones in approximately 15 seconds today. She said similar tests are now scheduled to take place at 11:30 each Wednesday.
Nikoloric also said motorists and residents can expect to see "occasional" flaring of natural gas liquids such as ethane, propane and butane from the Natrium plant as the company tests its flare system.
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. When the Natrium plant is running, the ethane, butane, propane and other forms of NGL are stripped away from the dry methane gas so all the products can be marketed individually.
Upon separation from the gas stream, the propane and butane are kept in tanks on the Natrium site to be marketed. This cannot be done with ethane because of the product's volatility, so Blue Racer ships much of this product for cracking along the Gulf Coast or in Canada when the plant is operating.