A Virginia energy company is considering construction of a massive natural gas pipeline through northern Pocahontas County. The proposed 42-inch pipeline would transport gas nearly 500 miles from Utica and Marcellus shale gas production fields in West Virginia to North Carolina.
Dominion Resources, Inc., based in Richmond, is gathering information and conducting surveys to assess the viability of the project, dubbed the Southeast Reliability Project. The company is sending out letters to landowners in three states, requesting permission to enter property and conduct surveys.
Dominion Transmission, a subsidiary of Dominion Resources, would build the project, at an estimated cost of $2 billion. Companies seeking to build natural gas pipelines must obtain approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
FERC requires an “open-season process” to ensure that interested parties are made aware of new pipeline projects and to determine if there is sufficient customer interest to pursue projects. Dominion Transmission issued a non-binding open-season notice for the project on April 16.
In an email, Dominion Communications manager Frank Mack wrote, “This much-needed natural gas infrastructure would better serve existing customer demand, improve service reliability and allow for customer growth and economic development along the route. The project also would improve gas supply for Mid-Atlantic markets, thereby promoting price stability and enhancing economic opportunity.”
The proposed pipeline would begin in Harrison County and terminate in Lumberton, North Carolina. A map of the proposed pipeline shows it passing through northern Pocahontas County, generally following Route 250, and into Highland County, Virginia.
“Right now it’s just preliminary,” said Dominion representative Frank Mack. “We’re not even sure if we’re going to do it yet.”
If built along the proposed route, the 42-inch pipeline would pass through both private and public lands, including the Monongahela National Forest. As currently plotted, the pipeline would cross the Greenbrier River, the headwaters of Shavers Fork and several other waterways in Pocahontas County.
Jack Tribble, U.S. Forest Service District Ranger for the Greenbrier District, through which the proposed pipeline passes, said he had received no formal notice of the pipeline proposal, although he had received an email about it on Monday.
A letter sent to affected Virginia residents states that the purpose of the pipeline is to “increase the availability of natural gas supplies in parts of the Southeast, including Virginia, thereby helping promote stable energy prices and economic development.”
While the letter implies the gas will be for domestic use, Dominion is in the process of obtaining government approval to export natural gas. Last September, the Obama administration granted a Dominion request for permission to export natural gas from a facility in Maryland. On May 15, in its quest to export natural gas to Japan and India, the company cleared another major hurdle when it received a favorable environmental review for the export operation from FERC.
The Pocahontas Times asked Dominion specifically if gas transported by the proposed pipeline would be exported. Mack’s email response did not address the issue of gas exports.
“The pipeline would provide improved domestic supply of natural gas for power generation and for industrial, commercial and residential energy consumers,” he wrote.
Mack said Dominion would know by the end of the year if it plans to pursue the project.
“Surveying will occur as early as this summer,” he wrote. “If Dominion decides to pursue the project, then it will submit a pre-filing request with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission by the end of the year. If the project is approved, we would anticipate project construction in 2017 and 2018, with service to our customers beginning as early as the end of 2018.”