“If something goes, it’s going to be horrendous” – Residents express concern over proposed AltaGas plant

After an open house last week that was designed to provide more information on a proposed natural gas liquids separation/handling plant right outside of town, some residents left feeling they had more questions then answers.

A homeowner who wishes to remain anonymous told Energetic City that her biggest concerns were found in an Emergency Response and Safety Guide.

The guide’s fourth page describes the properties of natural gas liquids and natural gas.

She felt concerned when it read that natural gas liquids produce vapours that are ‘flammable when mixed with air’ and ‘ignition can occur from any source that creates a spark such as static electricity, matches, pilot lights, phones, electric motors, internal combustion engines.’

“If something goes, it’s going to be horrendous,” she said. “I’m not against them having this plant, I’m against them having this plant that close to residential areas.”

She adds that many of her neighbours have similar opinions, as well.

“We didn’t realize it was going to be so huge, so much above ground with all this piping … Yes, it’s supposed to be a contained system, but ‘supposed to’ being the key term there.”

Project Manager Brock John of AltaGas was present at the open house to hear any concerns from homeowners, and spoke in response to this particular concern today.

“Natural gas liquids are flammable, but the plant we’re proposing is going to be designed with the most up to date technologies and integrity programs to mitigate the release of any natural gas liquids.” he said.

John got into more detail about the properties of natural gas liquids, saying that the vapour is flammable when it is exposed to air, but he asserts the concentration needs to be fairly precise to combust.

“If it’s too concentrated, it won’t burn … if there’s not enough oxygen, it won’t burn.”

John says the natural gas liquids will not be exposed to air under normal operating conditions, and will have a ‘vapour recovery system.’

How it works, he says, is that vapours are put into the recovery system, and extra vapour can be released into the flare and burned before posing a risk.

He adds this would only occur in the case of an emergency, or when depressurizing needs to happen, and should not be happening regularly.

AltaGas’s full Emergency Response and Safety Guide is available to read.

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