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The calm before the pipeline

SoVaNow.com / April 24, 2014
Local residents are about to become acquainted with an industrial curiosity: extra-long tractor trailers rolling down U.S. 58 with 80 foot segments of steel pipe mounted on back, for unloading at a site next to the Wilco-Bojangles Travel Plaza west of South Boston.

This is what happens Halifax County finds itself in the middle of one of the largest natural gas expansion projects on the East Coast.

For the past month, contractors for Williams, the transnational energy giant, have been prepping a 20-acre tract next to the travel plaza for open-air storage of pipeline. The South Boston staging site will feed the construction of a 100-mile extension from Pittsylvania to Brunswick; a second storage area in South Hill is being cleared for the same purpose.

It’s all part of Williams’ Virginia Southside Project, the company’s second largest natural gas infrastructure expansion among 11 planned in the eastern U.S. (The largest is a 178-mile pipeline that will tap the gas-rich Marcellus Shale region of southwestern Pennsylvania.) Because of their enormous cost, such projects usually only happen when there’s a sure-fire return on investment. With the Southside Virginia Project, the payoff will come with Dominion’s new $1.3 billion gas-fired power plant in Brunswick County.

By September, Williams anticipates that work will begin laying pipe from Chatham to Brunswick. The company’s contract with Dominion calls for the pipeline to be operational by September 2015. In the interim, residents can expect to see miles and miles of steel tubing coming in and out of South Boston.

“The main thing we’re waiting for now is for the pipe to be delivered, once they [the contractors] get the site prepared,” said Dave Clossin, project land supervisor for Williams’ South Hill office. The pipe is being supplied out of Alabama, he said; it’ll be delivered by trucks that are “probably one and a half times the size of normal tractor trailers on the road.”

Williams has permission to build an access road leading directly to the site from the west-bound lane of U.S. 58, but Clossin said it’s more likely that the company will be satisfied with delivery trucks using the stoplight intersection at the travel plaza. “To have direct access on that side [adjacent to the Wilco plaza], that could be a little testy,” he said.

More likely, trucks will turn onto the road that leads past Bojangles and enter the pipeline storage area from behind the travel plaza: “We’ve coordinated with them so everything is in good shape with the landowners as far as approvals go, and there are no conflicts with the truckers who come in there,” he added.

“Everything we do and work with around here is geared to doing things as safely as we can. We don’t shortcut on the safety side.”

Once the storage area comes together, motorists who drive by on U.S. 58 may be struck by the sight of stacked pipe, three and four pieces high, sprawled out over the 20-acre expanse. For the moment, though, the land is mostly empty, save for the earth-moving equipment that only has just begun grading and laying gravel over the 20 acres. Orange fencing marks off the work area.

The contractor preparing the site will lay down a stone cover and, once the pipeline project is complete, take it up and return the original topsoil. After mulching and reseeding, the land will mostly regain its original appearance. No buildings will be going up other than “some temporary construction trailers,” said Clossin.

Aside from the storage site, the biggest impact of the pipeline project on Halifax County will be the digging of a new trench line along Williams’ existing 50-foot right of way. The 24-inch pipeline will be buried three feet underground, next to a 20-inch line that was laid decades ago. Williams is having to acquire only a small amount of additional right-of-way, mostly in Brunswick County leading to the power plant itself. The company did need some more right-of-way near Terry’s Bridge Road to avoid trampling over a low-lying creekbed.

“We had to swing out because of the swamps and wetlands,” said Clossin.

The Virginia Southside Project, which has been estimated to cost up to $300 million, will split off from the Transco East Coast pipeline that runs 10,000 miles from Texas to New England. (With the addition of the Marcellus Shale extension, gas will flow from north to south for the first time.) To push natural gas all the way east from Pittsylvania to Brunswick County, Williams is building a 21,800-horsepower compressor station next to the existing Transco Station 165 in Chatham. (Williams acquired Transco Energy in 1995 and retains the Transco name for its East Coast interstate gas pipelines.)

While the Brunswick power station is driving the pipeline project, the investment is not being borne solely by Williams and Dominion. The Virginia Tobacco Commission has agreed to contribute $30 million over three years; the commission authorized grants to the Brunswick County Industrial Development Authority for use as incentives aimed at getting Dominion to go forward with the 1,358 megawatt combined-cycle plant.

By making the commitment, the Tobacco Commission hopes to cash in on a widespread economic impact from the pipeline; one way would be to tie in into new manufacturing megasites in Pittsylvania and Greensville counties. “Where the new pipeline begins is almost immediately adjacent to the Berry Hill megasite [in Pittsylvania],” said Tim Phohl, acting executive director of the Tobacco Commission. At its easternmost point, the line is few short miles from the Greensville megasite. Being able to furnish abundant natural gas is potentially a huge advantage in recruiting employers who brings new jobs by the thousands.

“Odds are, if you’re bringing in manufacturers with that size of an operation, natural gas would be desired,” said Phohl.

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Comments

Clossin, you are a liar. "“We had to swing out because of the swamps and wetlands,” said Clossin." There is already one pipeline running through swamps and wetlands. How the hell did it get there?

Comments

Because regulations are different now than when that line was put in.
Get more knowledge before you make yourself look ignorant again boy.

Comments

Enlighten the public girl. What is the US Code # related to your "regulation"?

Comments

I guess next we'll hear how safety is Williams top priority.
http://nyfriendsofcleanairandwater.blogspot.com/2014/04/williams-companies-safety-and.html
Tell us more about regulations.

Comments

http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/30/185
There you go you liar.

Comments

If the gas company knew what was good for it, they would detour around the God Forsaken Halifax County. This county doesn't want to cash in on anything. It is only cashing out. Remember, over 50% are illiterate.

Comments

Maybe how much cash they are willing to pay is the issue moron.


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