Air Pollution Issues Are Many and Varied with Natural Gases

by Duane Nichols on March 22, 2012

Air pollution concerns are many and varied in our society.  A couple of natural gas leaks have recently been reported in the tristate region, i.e. methane with an additive so it can be smelled.  Other dangerous gases are swamp gas and sewer gas, both containing methane and a variety of other organic gases including sulfur compounds that give them distinctive odors. The Mylan Elementary School in Morgantown was closed yesterday due to such odors. In addition, there are mixtures of natural gases coming from Marcellus drilling and shale gas processing and from pipelines (vents, leaks, etc.).

Do natural gas production facilities create air-quality concerns?

A report by Glynis Board on WV Public Broadcasting on March 20th  contains some useful information.  According to Jerry Williams, an engineer in the WV-DEP Division of Air Quality says if a facility produces more than 5 tons of hazardous air pollutants each year, it needs an air quality permit. There are numerous separators, compressors and boosters that heat, cool, and pressurize gas, and gas-liquids, and various tanks that are filled and emptied—all of which can create emissions.

Professor of biology and the Director for Environmental Research and Education at Duquesne University, John Stolz said, “I actually had an opportunity with one particular film director to have an infrared camera. The really expensive ones—and the one we had retails for about $80,000—you can actually tune it to the wavelengths for certain gasses. So we were tuning it for methane. And basically we were able to see in a number of different installations that there were faulty valves or leaky valves and things like that so there was this constant off-gassing of methane from these facilities.”

Air Emissions Near Fracking Sites May Impact Health

In a new study, researchers from the Colorado School of Public Health have shown that air pollution caused by hydraulic fracturing or fracking may contribute to acute and chronic health problems for those living near natural gas drilling sites.  “Our data show that it is important to include air pollution in the national dialogue on natural gas development that has focused largely on water exposures to hydraulic fracturing,” said Lisa McKenzie, Ph.D., MPH, lead author of the study and research associate at the Colorado School of Public Health.The study will be published in an upcoming edition of Science of the Total Environment.

Air Quality Permit Notice for Compressor Station in Harrison County, WV

Dominion Transmission, Inc. has applied to the WV-DEP for a permit to modify a natural gas compressor facility located near Sardis, Harrison County, WV. From Interstate 79 at the Clarksburg exit. Go through Clarksburg on Route 50. Turn off of Route 50 onto Route 9 (Gregory Run Road). Travel for 5 miles, and then turn right at Dominion Transmission sign and go about 0.5 miles to site. The preliminary determination is complete for permit R13-2915.

The following increase in potential emissions will be authorized by this permit action: Particulate Matter less than 10 microns, 1.00 tons per year (TPY); Particulate Matter, 1.00 TPY; Oxides of Nitrogen, 8.30 TPY; Carbon Monoxide, 7.50 TPY. The following decrease in potential emissions will be authorized by this permit action: Volatile Organic Compounds, 16.30 TPY; Total Hazardous Air Pollutants, 6.40 TPY.

Marcellus Shale Gas Compressor Station in Allegheny County, PA

Allegheny County could soon receive its first Marcellus compressor station, in Frazer Township near the Pittsburgh Mills mall. Due to public interest in the proposal, the Allegheny County Health Department has extended their comment period to March 27th and is holding a public meeting on that day as well, where citizens can give testimony orally. The deadline to sign up for a speaking slot is 4 PM on Friday, March 23rd; call Edina Savage at (412) 578-8115 to set up your speaking time. Click here to get further information on this site and the comment process.

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