Monday, July 1, 2013

Bluegrass Pipeline - What You Need to Know

I’m sure many of you thought the Bluegrass Pipeline would be a natural gas line that you can hook to for gas heat. The truth is that the line will be used to pump natural gas LIQUIDS from where they are being produced in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia to Hardinsburg, Ky, then south to Eunice, Louisiana for further processing to make plastics. The Bluegrass Pipeline is a joint venture between Williams and Boardwalk Pipeline Partners.

Here is information based on the Williams Company Information Sheet online: 

How are NGLs transported?

NGLs are transported by pipeline under pressure in a liquid state. NGLs have a vapor pressure in the range of 300 pounds per square inch (psig) to 600 psig. At pressure lower than this, which is called the vapor pressure, the NGLs can only exist in the gaseous state. However, the total pressure on the NGL pipeline may be as high as 1440 psig. Our NGL pipelines are monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week at a state-of-the-art pipeline control center in Tulsa, Okla.

Recognizing a Leak

The release of NGLs causes a rapid expansion of the NGL liquid into a vapor state, which creates a cooling effect near the point of release. The only indication for small leaks may be the appearance of frozen ground over the pipeline location, or frost around above ground piping.
Large leaks may be detected by the appearance of a high velocity vapor jet near the exit point. The visibility of the vapor jet is caused by water vapor in the air being frozen by the cooling effect. This vapor cloud will have the appearance of a very thick fog. Away from the release point, the vapor will be colorless.

Properties of NGLs

NGLs are odorless and colorless vapor under atmospheric conditions. They are flammable,dangerous if inhaled and can cause frostbite.

Hazards of a Release

When NGL is released into the atmosphere (from a leak) it becomes a vapor and may appear as a white cloud near the exit point from the pipeline, but otherwise, it is an odorless,
colorless gas. NGL vapor is heavier than air and will tend to stay low to the ground following
terrain features such as valleys, canyons, creeks, rivers or other low points.

Igniting a vapor cloud of NGL could result in an explosion causing injury, destruction of property and even death.

Recent Questions and Concerns Raised by Citizens: 

The pipelines are monitored in Oklahoma. Over 800 miles from Kentucky!

How can you recognize a leak in the winter? The vapor will be colorless!

There are many creeks in our area that could end up being contaminated.

"Emergency Advice" from the Williams Company Site:


In the event of a leak from an NGL pipeline, all forms of ignition must be turned off immediately. 

Do not smoke, do not turn on gas grills, do not start any kind of electrical motor or gasoline engine. Do not start cars or trucks. Do not turn on lights.

If an NGL leak is suspected by a driver, turn off automobiles and do not drive into low points where a vapor cloud (colorless and odorless) may exist. Driving into a vapor cloud may cause an explosion.

If an NGL leak is suspected, leave the area immediately on foot – up wind, uphill and upgrade – and try to gain higher ground.

Do not start cars or trucks or operate electrical machinery or apparatus.

Call 911. Call the pipeline company and advise them of suspected leak location.

Our emergency phone number is 800-635-7400.

What NGL Exposure Can Do to You:

Here are some effects these liquids could present if a humans or animals are exposed:

NGLs in general are extremely flammable, can be ignited by heat, spark or flame.  
NGLs may release explosive vapors that can travel, be ignited at remote locations, and flash back. There is a high risk of burns.
These materials are classified as hazardous under OSHA regulations.

NGLs may cause illness, injury, or death with skin contact, eye contact, inhalation, and ingestion.  

Medical Conditions which might be aggravated by NGL exposure: Skin, respiratory, cardiac, and blood disorders. 

These substances may sensitize the heart to catecholamine induced arrhythmia.  Cardio-pulmonary (heart and lung) complications may be exacerbated. 

Acute Exposure Effects:

1. Inhalation: NGLs form vapor when exposed to air, forming an asphyxiant gas. They may cause irritation of nose and throat, dizziness, drowsiness, euphoria, loss of coordination, disorientation, headache, or nausea. In areas where concentrations of vapor are high, unconsciousness and asphyxiation may result. Death may result from asphyxiation.

2. Ingestion: NGLs present an aspiration hazard. This material can enter lungs during swallowing or vomiting and cause lung inflammation and damage.

3. Skin: Vaporizing liquid may cause frostbite.  Now frostbite, in some ways, is an understatement.  Some gases liquefy at -319 degrees Fahrenheit.  Vapors escaping from a ruptured pipe could be about that cold.

4. Eyes: May cause irritation and burns from cold temperatures. 

What are NGLs?  These are the liquids that will be pumped through the Bluegrass Pipeline.

Specific NGLS Include: 

1. Ethane - Extremely flammable. Gas/air mixtures are explosive. Can cause suffocation and frostbite with physical contact. Personal protection during a spill requires a self-contained breathing apparatus. 
Danger area must be evacuated and experts must be consulted.  All ignition sources must be turned off. Ventilation is necessary. One should NEVER direct a water jet on burning liquids. High concentrations of this gas in the air cause a deficiency of oxygen with the risk of unconsciousness or death. Check oxygen content before entering area. 

2. Propane - Colorless, odorless flammable and explosive gas. A foul-smelling odorant is often added when used for fuel purposes, but not typically in transport pipelines. Propane is shipped as a liquefied compressed gas. It is life-threatening on inhalation and on contact with skin or eyes. Causes dizziness, confusion, excitation, asphyxia, frostbite. Targets the central nervous system. Propane is a carcinogen. 

It should be noted that before suffocation could occur, the lower flammability limit of propane in air would be exceeded; possibly causing both an oxygen-deficient and explosive atmosphere. Lack of sufficient oxygen may cause serious injury or death. This carcinogen also causes damage to the reproductive system.

 3. Butane - Also called normal-Butane, Butyl hydride, Diethyl, Methylethylmethane. This is a colorless gas with a gasoline-like or natural gas odor. It is highly flammable and explosive. It is dangerous on inhalation, or with skin and/or eye contact. Causes drowsiness, narcosis, asphyxia frostbite, and central nervous system damage. 

4. Isobutane - Also called 2-Methylpropane. A flammable liquid gas under pressure. Effects include acute toxicity and sudden death from ventricular fibrillation, narcosis, shortness of breath; asphyxia, frostbite from contact with liquid, drowsiness. Affects the central nervous system.

5.  Methane, (CH4) - Methane is nontoxic on its own but can become lethal when it combines with another gas. Methane causes asphyxiation by displacing oxygen. It may produce symptoms of dizziness and headache, but these often go unnoticed until the brain signals the body to gasp for air. This happens too late, and the individual collapses. Because of the lack of oxygen, the result is usually death. Methane is extremely flammable and will easily cause explosions. It can leak unnoticed into structures and spaces, and a tiny spark can ignite the undetected gas. Explosions from methane gas are extremely strong, and the damage is devastating. The explosions associated with methane gas are not limited to the space that has the highest concentration, but anywhere it has seeped. It may be in one room, or it can travel through an entire city block.

OSHA Handling Requirements:

  • Eye Protection: Wear chemical type goggles or face shield.
  • Skin Protection: Wear impervious protective clothing, including boots, gloves, lab coat, apron or coveralls, as appropriate, to prevent skin contact.
  • Respiratory Protection: Air supplied respirators should always be worn when airborne concentrations of the contaminant are known. (It's probably not a bad idea to have respiratory protection when the concentrations are unknown too.)
  • Ventilation: Use explosion-proof equipment to maintain adequate ventilation to meet occupational exposure  limits, prevent accumulation of explosive air-gas mixtures, and avoid significant oxygen displacement.

Unfortunately many local emergency responders lack the equipment, training, and budget to adequately address leaks or explosions that can and do occur. 

What is happening in the other Counties that are being targeted for the pipeline:

1. Many citizens across the state are actively opposing this pipeline for economic, safety, and environmental reasons. 

2.  While negotiations with land owners are confidential, some report being offered as little as $25 per linear foot of land with a 50 ft. easement on their property. This is a one-time payment. There would also be a temporary 100 foot construction easement. Consequently, the company would clear a 1 foot by 100 feet swath of land for each linear foot for the length of the easement. After the pipeline is laid, a 50 foot swath of land would basically be owned by the company.

3.  While they say that they don't take away ownership, they do severely restrict the owner's use of the land. The owner cannot replant trees because they may affect the line. The lines are generally three feet below the surface. If farmers want to continue tilling or plowing their land, they would have to negotiate to get the pipes laid deeper. The company gets to use the land while the land owner must continue to pay taxes, any continued financing, and any increased insurance rates. The resale value of the land and any buildings on the property would decrease. 

4. The pipeline owners won't ask for your permission if they're going through your neighbor's property even though an explosion or leak would affect you, your resale value may plummet, and your insurance may go up. 

5.  Second, if you drink water in any shape or form or eat products produced by farms that use water, you should be concerned. This company plans to either dredge through or tunnel under both the Ohio and Kentucky Rivers. Further, Kentucky is karst country. It is like a giant honeycomb. If and when these lines leak, the toxic NGLs will enter the water supply.

6. Boardwalk has about 14,000 miles of natural gas pipeline but ONLY 240 miles of Natural gas liquid pipeline. Williams has only 1000 miles of natural gas liquids pipeline. Citizens are concerned about the lack of experience with NGL pipelines.