PICTURE ROCKS - The public had a chance Thursday night to comment on an expansion of a compressor station used by natural gas driller Chief Gathering.
The state Department of Environmental Protection held a public meeting and hearing to discuss an air quality plan approval application, which was received by the agency on July 6, 2010.
No decision was made by DEP, nor was a timeline given as to when a decision will be made.
Craig S. McKibben Jr./Sun-Gazette
Alison Rupert, who lives in Penn Township near the Barto Compressor Station, asks a question of a small panel of Chief Gathering representatives at Thursday evening’s public meeting held to consider questions and provide information about the environmental impact of expanding the compressor.
The application is for an expansion of the company's Barto Compressor Station in Penn Township. The proposal would grow the station from five to nine compressors.
Chief Gathering's plan includes four natural gas-fired reciprocating internal combustion engines to provide power to natural gas compressors, which would increase the pressure of the incoming natural gas to the facility and discharge the gas at a higher pressure for transport to a network of pipelines.
Muhammad Zaman, the environmental program manager for the Air Quality program, said companies submitting an application are required to satisfy the best technologies being proposed by devices.
Ted Wurfel, vice president of environmental health and safety for Chief Gathering, said the meeting was about the plan permit approval application they submitted last year.
"We want to make sure you're going to be comfortable with this facility that will be in your backyard," Wurfel said.
He said Barto Compressor Station is operating and has been for about three years.
The proposed natural gas compressors are four 3608 Caterpillar engines, some of the cleanest engines available, Wurfel said.
"It's a very clean engine," Wurfel said. "It's significantly cleaner than ones in the past."
In January, Chief Gathering did performance tests on three of the proposed engines, which already are in use.
The tests came back as "significantly below" emissions tests, Wurfel said. He said the natural gas that flows in northcentral Pennsylvania does not contain any C6+, which is in a group of volatile organic compounds that can contain potentially dangerous particles.
"Those of you that live nearby, this has already been operating, it is very similar to what it is now, except four new engines," Wurfel said. "Currently, Barto facility meets and exceeds - lower than, not higher than - all federal and state emission levels and will continue to meet state and federal emission level limits."
Some residents asked why Chief Gathering does not participate in the Natural Gas STAR program, which is a voluntary partnership that encourages natural gas companies to adopt cost-effective technologies to improve efficiency and reduce emissions. Wurfel said senior officers of the company are discussing the program, its technologies and payback periods.
In response to residents calling for more emissions testing, Wurfel explained that a controlled device on the exhaust measures the pressure in and out of the engine every 30 seconds. The catalyst works best within a certain pressure range and if the test shows a trend on one edge of the range, they use the indicator to evaluate what circumstances are occurring.
"It's probably an indicator to clean or replace the catalyst, but it could be a lot of things," Wurfel said.
DEP also requires an emissions test at every 8,760 hours of engine operation or three years, whichever comes first. If the engine operates every hour for a year, it will be 8,760 hours.
Wurfel said because it is difficult to manage when to test, the company directly measures the emissions every year.