Mountain Valley Pipeline Coating Questioned

WEDNESDAY, JULY 17, 2019


The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has recently issued a request for “toxicological, environmental and health information” from the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s corporate attorney regarding the coatings used on the project’s 42-inch diameter steel pipe.

Due to delays in the gas pipeline construction project, various sections of pipe have been stored above ground, some for more than a year, raising concerns about the possibility of degrading epoxy coatings and the effects they could have on the surrounding air, soil and water.

About the Project

Owned and still being constructed by Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC—a joint venture between EQT Midstream Partners LP, NextEra US Gas Assets LLC, Con Edison Transmission Inc., WGL Midstream and RGC Midstream LLC—once complete, the pipeline is slated to be operated by EQT Midstream Partners.

The Mountain Valley Pipeline is expected to run from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia, cutting through the Jefferson National Forest. Being the smaller of two such projects currently underway in the state of Virginia; the other is the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which is twice as long and passes through the center of the state but does not cut through Jefferson National Forest.

Using gas from Marcellus and Utica shale production, the pipeline will deliver 2 billion cubic feet of gas per day. According to Reuters, 1 billion cubic feet is enough to power 5 million U.S. homes for the same amount of time.

On July 27, 2018, an order from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit turned over prior decisions made by the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service authorizing construction of the 303-mile pipeline. In early August, the U.S. Federal Regulatory Commission ordered work on the pipeline to cease, alleging that two U.S. agencies had not fully examined the projects.

A few months later, in October, the project was blocked yet again, but this time by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, suspending a permit that would allow the pipeline to cross more than 500 streams and wetlands in southwest Virginia. The following month, MVP filed an application with FERC for a 73-mile Southgate permit pipeline extension.

Pipeline Coating

Since January of this year, concerned Virginia residents have sent direct correspondence to FERC in reference to the degradation and sloughing (chalking) of the pipeline’s 3M Scotchkote Fusion Bonded Epoxy 6233, which was accelerated due to prolonged exposure to sunlight and the environment.

As seen by the community, the chalking of coatings affects the area in two ways:

  • Releases harmful toxins into the air while exposed to the elements; and
  • Leach materials into groundwater with the possibility of spreading to streams and wells once buried.

State Health Commissioner Norman Oliver and Department of Environmental Quality Director David Paylor sent an additional letter to the FERC commission in March, requesting more information about the possible short- and long-term hazards proposed by the coating after they failed to hear back from 3M Manufacturing Company, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Sanitation Foundation.

Upon receiving this request, FERC began to oversee the construction project as the lead agency and asked MVP for a report on the “the toxicity of the FBE [fusion-bonded epoxy] from all potential exposure pathways.”

According to The Roanoke Times, the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration conducted inspections and found that Mountain Valley “followed recommended storage procedures and found no evidence of degradation of the pipeline’s protective coating.”

Additionally, Natalie Cox, a spokesperson for Mountain Valley, has stated that the fusion-bonded epoxy coatings have been used since the 1960s, and that the company is unaware of any evidence supporting the concerns over health and the enviornment.

MVP officials have 20 days to respond to FERC’s letter, and they also expect to regain suspended permits in the future, putting an estimated completion date for the pipeline by the middle of next year.

   

Tagged categories: Coating failure; Coating Materials; Coatings; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); EPA; Epoxy; Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC); Fusion bonded epoxy; Government; Industrial coatings; NA; North America; Oil and Gas; Ongoing projects; Pipelines; Program/Project Management; Project Management; Protective Coatings

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