Gas Pipeline OK’d in PA

Wednesday, May 4, 2016 @ 09:05 AM gHale

A $178 million natural gas pipeline project through five central Pennsylvania counties that will primarily serve a power plant under construction in Shamokin Dam gained approval from federal regulators.

The approval Friday is a major step toward starting construction of the 34.4-mile, 20-inch Sunbury Pipeline Project of UGI Energy Services Inc. that will go through Lycoming, Montour, Northumberland, Union and Snyder counties.

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UGI is pleased with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) approval, said spokesman Kenneth Robinson. Most of the rights of way have been obtained and contracts have been let, he said. Construction should start as soon as they get permits from the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Tree cutting will begin as soon as a limited notice to proceed is obtained and end up completed in about four weeks, he said.

The pipeline itself should wrap up in November so gas is available in early 2017, when testing begins at the Panda Power Funds Hummel Station generating plant, he said.

Panda, headquartered in Dallas, Texas, also is pleased with the FERC approval, spokesman Bill Pentak said.

“Achieving this milestone is great news for natural gas royalty owners and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” he said.

UGI is reviewing the FERC order, which contains a number of conditions and a detailed environment assessment of the project, Robinson said.

FERC found it will have minimal impacts on landowners and communities.

During public comments, concerns arose about water and air quality, subsidence, geologic hazards, forest fragmentation and noise and air.

No compression facilities are in the works along the pipeline, the northern terminus of which will be a Transco transmission line in eastern Lycoming County.

The southern terminus will be the 1,124-megawatt Hummel Station natural gas power plant under construction in Shamokin Dam.

The Panda plant, scheduled for completion in early 2018, should consume 80 percent of the gas in the pipeline, with the rest distributed by UGI Penn Natural Gas and UGI Central Penn Gas.

The plant is going up on the site of a 65-year-old, former PPL 400-megawatt coal-fired power plant that Sunbury Generation closed in 2014.

Construction is five percent complete, with the majority of the underground pipe installed and tested, Pentak said. The first of the major equipment ended up delivered, he said.

Approximately 250 workers are on site, with that number expected to grow to 900, he said.

Panda said the plant is one of the largest natural gas power conversion projects in the United States.

It has not disclosed its cost, but the Energy Information Administration uses an estimate of $1 million per megawatt, which would put the project in the $1.2 billion range.

Compared with the coal plant it replaces, Panda said, the new one will generate 180 percent more power, use 97 percent less water for cooling purposes and reduce air emissions significantly.

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