WHEATFIELD – National Fuel representatives tried to convince skeptical Wheatfield residents Wednesday that a proposed natural gas dehydration facility wouldn’t poison their families.
The proposed $8 million dehydration plant is part of a $455 million upgrade of the company’s pipelines in Western New York to export to Canada the gas obtained by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in Pennsylvania. The decision on approving the project lies with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington.
“It has nothing to do with deliveries to Wheatfield,” said Ronald C. Kraemer, vice president of National Fuel Gas Supply Corp.
He said the dehydration facility is to be built on an acre on Liberty Drive, the southeast corner of a 40-acre parcel, which is mostly wetlands. He said the company has no plans for the rest of the parcel and bought it because that was what was available. Kraemer said the company was looking for a site in an industrial zone between the junction of the existing Empire Pipeline and the supply line from Pennsylvania. He said the choice boiled down to Wheatfield or Grand Island.
Some residents shouted, “Niagara Falls.” Kraemer answered, “There’s no pipeline in Niagara Falls.”
“Having it near residents of any sort is negligent,” resident Monica Daigler said.
“Natural gas, whether it’s fracked gas or not fracked gas, is wet,” Kraemer told the audience of more than 100 in the Wheatfield Community Center. “For 100 years, we’ve had to dehydrate gas so your meter doesn’t freeze up.”
The reason for the station, Kraemer said, is that American regulators allow a water vapor level of 7 pounds per million cubic feet, but Canadian regulations limit the water vapor to 4 pounds per million cubic feet.
Michael P. Kasprzak, assistant vice president for facility engineering, said that if the dehydration station had been in operation in 2015, there would have been only two days during the year on which the facility would have run, because the water vapor level would have been above the Canadian 4-pound standard. The gas in the Empire Pipeline was never over 4 pounds of water, while the Pennsylvania supply lines exceeded the standard on 12 days of the year.
“If you want the truth, I don’t think it will run,” Kraemer said. “For contractual obligations, we have to make sure we can make deliveries.”
All natural gas contains small amounts of other chemicals, such as benzene, toluene and xylene. The station is to include a thermal oxidizer, also called a combuster, which would destroy at least 99 percent of those chemicals, according to Jeffrey A. Panek of Innovative Environmental Solutions, a firm hired by National Fuel.
“You’re getting paid to tell us this. That’s why I don’t believe you,” said Wheatfield resident Kacper Kozminski.
Daigler said, “I’m telling you right now, the reason we’re here is benzene.” She and other speakers repeated, “The only safe level of benzene is zero.”
“They’re going to vent the vapors into the atmosphere,” said Pauline Scibetta, a retiree from Roswell Park who was on the Love Canal Health team in the late 1970s. “Those were the same chemicals they found in barrels at Love Canal.”
Mike Alianello, of Lancelot Drive, who lives about a half-mile from the dehydration site, asked Panek, “Would you want that in your backyard?”
Panek answered, “Yes. I would have no problem living next to that facility.”
“You want my house?” Alianello responded.