The sight of a flame burning at a natural gas pumping station in West Cornwall Township raised concerns among area residents on Monday.
Burn-off of propane is a normal part of a maintenance process underway on the Mariner East 1 Pipeline, owned by Sunoco Logistics, and should not raise safety concerns, said a company spokesman said Tuesday.
The Mariner East 1 pipeline is a 300-mile pipeline that crosses the southern portion of Lebanon County, including South Annville, South Londonderry, West Cornwall, South Lebanon and Heidelberg townships. It is undergoing major modifications to convert it from an east-to-west fuel and heating oil pipeline to a west-to-east liquid natural gas pipeline.
The company notified West Cornwall Township last week that as part of that project, it would be doing repairs along the length of the pipeline that would include emptying it of propane and flushing it with nitrogen gas. The company advised the township that a release of high-pressurized nitrogen could create a loud noise, which some have compared to an airplane lifting off.
To ease concerns, Cornwall Police Department notified residents registered to its Nixle communication system.
A story about the maintenance project also was published by the Daily News last Tuesday, which reported no flame would be used.
On Monday, however, Cornwall police received reports from residents seeing flares rising high in the sky from remote vantage points around the pumping station along Route 322, just east of Butler Road.
Sunoco Logistics spokesman Jeff Shields said Tuesday that the use of portable flares to burn off propane is a normal part of the process and that an explanation was included in the packet of information shared with the township, information that was confirmed by Cornwall Borough police Chief Bruce Harris.
Shields clarified that when speaking with the Daily News about the process, he was misunderstood, because he was referring solely to the nitrogen release, which is not flammable and involved no flaring.
Propane, which is combustible, is a different matter.
During the purging process currently underway, when propane is pushed through the line to a distribution point, some is released into the atmosphere and must be burned off safely with the use of portable flares called candlestick flares, Shields explained.
“This is major operation, clearing the line, and we need those candlestick flares to burn off the propane,” he said. “Then coming in behind it will be the nitrogen that clears the line in its entirety of anything left over. You have to vent that, but nitrogen is not combustible.”
The venting of the nitrogen has been completed, Shields said, and the burning of the flare to eliminate any propane should be finished Wednesday.
This article was written by John Latimer from Lebanon Daily News, Pa. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.