by Kate Shunney
Mountaineer Gas’ natural gas pipeline running from northern Morgan County into Berkeley County has gas in it, but the company doesn’t have any local customers yet. Workers are preparing the pipeline’s western end for a regulator station so it will be able to add more gas to the line in the future.
Company officials said they don’t know right now whether gas supply will come from a planned Columbia Gas pipeline under the Potomac River from the north, or from some other source.
Moses Skaff, Senior VP of Mountaineer Gas, told The Morgan Messenger last week that his company’s platform – a flat, graded area north of U.S Silica – is being prepared for a regulator station that will let the pipeline receive gas.
The platform can also serve as an “injection point” for gas to be fed into the line during peak demand periods, said Skaff. Winter heating can spur those demand periods.
Skaff confirmed that the recent spur of activity on the gas platform was tied to the September 23 decision by the National Park Service to grant a right-of-way under the C&O Canal to Columbia Gas. The company plans to build a gas pipeline west of Hancock and under the Potomac River. That line would bore under the canal and river.
The Park Service decision means Columbia Gas needs just one more major easement to build a 3.4-miles supply line from Fulton County, Pa. to Morgan County. So far, the Maryland Division of Natural Resources has rejected the gas company’s request to drive the pipeline under the Western Maryland Rail Trail west of Hancock.
Preparing for a supply
Skaff said his company is “just getting the platform ready” to receive gas.
“We’re preparing the platform to take natural gas supply at some point. We don’t know where it’s going to come from at this time,” said Skaff.
The local gas line has been “energized” for several months, meaning it is holding natural gas right now. Skaff said the line isn’t holding a large amount of gas, but has been put in service. Mountaineer Gas is doing regular inspections along the pipeline path, including on-the-ground visual inspection along the right of way and detection monitors.
Mountaineer Gas doesn’t have any Morgan County customers right now, though U.S. Silica plans to be a customer, said Skaff.
His company is interested in running the natural gas line to customers here when they have a bigger supply of gas to distribute.
Right now, Mountaineer Gas can’t take on larger customers because the current gas supply coming in from Virginia can’t meet further demand.
Skaff said the gas line platform along U.S. 522 can be used now, even without a Columbia Gas line coming in from Maryland.
Once work is completed on the platform, the area can be an injection point for gas coming in by truck.
Later, the gas company expects that area to be the connection point between their line and a Columbia Gas line coming from Maryland.
“We will find some sort of gas capacity up there,” Skaff said.
“We already have a number of businesses that are interested in natural gas, particularly downtown,” he said. “We’re going to be there.”
The development of Coolfont resort and plans for growth around a U.S. 522 bypass and hospital connector road are also on Mountaineer Gas’ radar as they plan for future line expansion.