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National Fuel starts compressor work in southern Erie County
By David Bertola
April 25, 2012
National Fuel Gas Supply Corp. will begin construction this week on a compressor station in Wales.
The station is part of the company’s $62 million Northern Access project, which will increase National Fuel Gas Corp.’s ability to transport Marcellus Shale gas from Pennsylvania through Western New York into Canada and the Northeastern part of the U.S.
Construction began April 23 on an access road from Reiter Road in Wales, and the company has also secured a building permit to start work on the station.
Of the compressor station, National Fuel spokeswoman Karen Merkel said, “Construction on it will begin this week.”
A compressor station includes massive industrial reciprocating, 2,500 horsepower engines that run on natural gas, and is used to increase pressure in natural gas pipelines to give the gas a boost and push it farther down the line. They also are used if a pipeline is being connected to one that operates at a higher pressure.
In Wales, four structures will comprise the compressor site, which covers one and three-quarters acres. From Reiter Road, only one stack from one of the buildings will be visible.
Company officials say that building compression stations is less expensive than adding more pipe. The company makes money by transporting gas between points along various pipelines. But with the natural gas-rich Marcellus Shale being drilled throughout much of Pennsylvania, the company found itself delivering gas to regions where there’s already plenty of it, and to where it’s less expensive.
Traditionally, the company delivered natural gas to the east from Canada and the Gulf Coast, then to points where it’s less expensive to places where it’s costly.
Usually, the gas entered the United States at a site near Niagara Falls, then was transferred to the South and East.
But the compressor station will be used to reverse the natural gas flow, back into Canada. Factors leading to National Fuel’s decision to do so was a combination of higher natural gas prices in Canada and lower ones in the heart of Pennsylvania’s natural gas-drilling region.
To reverse the flow, the company is building compressor and measurement stations on points throughout its pipeline to move gas from wells into their infrastructure and to market.
In a Nov. 4 Business First article, Ron Kraemer, National Fuel Gas Supply Corp. vice president, said in most cases, existing pipes will be used.
“Our pipeline systems are built to take gas and move it east and south. But it’s pipe, and like a straw you can blow into either end to push it along,” he said.
Kraemer added that so much Marcellus Shale gas is being produced in Pennsylvania, that it needs a way out, and that there’s more gas than can be moved. So they’re moving it northward.
“More Marcellus Shale gas is being produced there that can be used by the East Coast market,” he said.