Shale Compressor Station Permitted in Allegheny County

May 29, 2012

The Allegheny County Health Department has issued the first permit for a Marcellus Shale compressor station in the county to Superior Appalachian Pipeline, which will run the facility in Frazer Township on Kissick Lane.

Guillermo Cole, Allegheny County Health Department spokesman, said there are already compressor stations in Allegheny County that transport natural gas, but this one will be the first transporting Marcellus Shale natural gas.

"The natural gas that is being produced obviously needs to be transported from the production site to more distant locations where it will be used," Cole said. "This compressor station will be fueled solely by natural gas and will of course transport the gas through pipelines."

He said well sites need to have a compressor station in most instances to create the pressure needed to transport the natural gas through pipelines, so the permit is probably the first of more to be issued.

"Generally you do have compressor stations installed wherever there's Marcellus Shale natural gas production and this is the first and, for now, the only Marcellus Shale natural gas production site in Allegheny County," Cole said.

The initial proposal for the compressor station generated concern over air pollution. Cole said 183 people testified during the extended comment period, and the Health Department grouped the concerns into 56 main categories. The Department then adjusted the permit to meet some of the concerns the public had, particularly involving air pollution.

"There are certainly some air issues that must be addressed because we are dealing with a compressor station that is burning fuel, in this case a relatively clean burning fuel," Cole said, "but nonetheless it does represent some potential for emissions when you have fuel burning."

The final permit includes four major changes, mainly involving the amount of monitoring the station has to undergo. The main change to the permit decreased the amount of formaldehyde and visible emissions permitted.

"We think these changes will satisfy the commentors, and decrease, somewhat, emissions, although we've maintained all along that the compressor station is a minor source [of air emissions]," Cole said.

After the construction of the compressor is complete in September, Superior Appalachian Pipeline must also obtain an operating permit every year. Cole said since the methods of construction and operation have already been approved by the Department, it shouldn't be a problem.

"They would just have to demonstrate that they can operate the station in compliance," Cole said.

Ken Magyar, Vice President of Project Development for Superior Appalachian Pipeline, said compliance shouldn't be a problem even though the permit requirements are different from what they have experienced.

"The Allegheny [County] requirements for the air permit are definitely more stringent than what we've seen in other areas and also a little more stringent than what the [Department of Environmental Protection] has in place," Magyar said, "but we're fully capable of being compliant."