If federal approval is received, Kinder Morgan plans to install a section of the Utopia East pipeline system through three Fulton County townships beginning at year’s end.
The proposed $500 million ethane and propane Ohio pipeline would stretch about 215 miles between Harrison and Fulton counties, ending its run north, approximately through the centers of Swancreek, Fulton, and Amboy townships. In Amboy Township it would connect to Kinder Morgan’s established Cochin pipeline, then exit Fulton County west of Metamora.
Pending approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), construction would begin in the fourth quarter of 2016, although the bulk of work would occur through 2017. A service date for the pipeline is anticipated in early 2018.
From there, liquids originating from the state’s Utica shale region would travel to NOVA Chemicals Corporation to be used for producing plastics in Corunna, Ontario. According to Allen Fore, Kinder Morgan vice president of public affairs, the 12-inch pipeline would carry 50,000 barrels of liquid per day. The amount would raise to 75,000 barrels per day with the addition of two pump stations.
While the common conception is that pipelines are used for energy, the Utopia East pipeline is mainly transporting ethane as feedstock for such products as bottles, tires, detergent, and other common household items, Fore said.
“It’s utilizing a product from the shale, and it’s good for the economy. There’s real meaning and value to these projects of Ohio,” he said.
Fore said the pipeline’s zigzag course throughout its route signifies the company’s commitment to avoiding planting fields and buildings where possible. He said other than the possibility of a few minor tweaks the pipeline’s route has been finalized.
According to Fore, the Utopia project is under the scrutiny of an agricultural impact mitigation agreement drawn up in conjunction with the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation that addresses issues regarding farmland along its path. He said soil segregation will be a priority.
“We put together an action document,” he said. “We are absolutely aware and committed to agricultural mitigation, and we are dealing with those issues upfront.”
Fore said Kinder Morgan has worked with The Ohio State University to study the impact the pipeline could have on crops within its route. He said the impact has not been significant where rules are in place.
Additionally, the Utopia East pipeline would include a 24/7 monitoring system and separate monitoring from the air. Fore said the 12-inch pipe is coated with anti-corrosion epoxy and buried at a proper depth “so the potential of impacts to the line are minimized. Pipelines that are properly installed and maintained can be operated for generations. Over time you can’t even tell it’s there other than the above-ground markers.”
Fore also listed several federal and state agencies involved in project approval, including the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
He said the Utopia project will create an estimated 1,000 union jobs and five permanent full-time positions across Ohio. He added, “It’s in the best interest of everybody that these things are done right. You have to make sure you have a project that is attuned to local interests.”
Ninety-five percent of property owners approached by Kinder Morgan representatives along the pipeline route have been amicable, and about one-third of negotiations for easements from over 900 landowners are complete, Fore said. He said nearly all landowners approached provided survey access, and the company has held community open house events.
Eminent domain proceedings will be initiated if necessary, but “it’s rarely used, and rarely applied,” Fore said. “It’s always a last resort. Everything is done to reach a resolution. At the end of the day…it’s about a relationship that goes with the land and is long-term.”
Trustees from Fulton and Amboy townships did not return calls by press time. Swancreek Township Trustee Ron Holdeman referred the Expositor to Trustee Rick Kazmierczak, who did not return messages.
David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.