Select a topic below to view related questions and answers about the project.
Q. What is the width of the construction easement needed for the proposed pipeline expansion when paralleling the existing pipeline, when using a route in an existing power line easement, and when using a totally new route? What must be done to the land, ground cover, trees, etc., to permit construction?
A. The typical width of the construction right-of-way required will be 75 feet for the proposed pipeline, whether it is paralleling the existing pipeline or not. This land will be cleared of trees and vegetation. Paralleling the existing pipeline minimizes the need for additional cleared area, since at least 50 feet should already be clear. It is unclear to what extent the various power companies would allow Dominion to use their easements on a temporary basis for construction, but Dominion will not be able to locate the proposed line significantly within an existing power line easement. The entire length of the pipeline will have a 50-foot wide permanent right-of-way - 25 feet on both sides of the centerline. Land agents are available to discuss individual circumstances with landowners.
Q. Does the right of eminent domain, once gained, extend to acquiring rights-of-ways and/or easements along those owned or used by other utilities?
A. We are too early in our project to contemplate eminent domain and we are pleased with our track record of successful negotiations over the years. If, and when, condemnation becomes our last resort, we will evaluate the issues at that time. Generally, public utilities and similar entities that provide vital public services recognize the need to work together to provide these services, so we do not expect that condemnation will be necessary in these cases.
Q. What specific issues are presented by placing gas pipelines under power lines of various sizes? If there are safety considerations, whether construction or maintenance related or both, what is the specific nature of each and ways in which they are commonly minimized or obviated to permit such combinations to exist. What industry standards and/or governmental regulations apply, if any?
A. In general, power companies do not allow gas pipelines to be installed under power lines. However, in certain cases, gas pipelines are allowed to share a portion of the edge of the power company's easement not under the lines. Safety considerations when proposing a dual occupancy right-of-way (electric and gas pipeline) are pipeline construction equipment working in and around power poles; equipment coming too close to the power lines; damage to the power company's counterpoise; electrical shock on the pipeline during construction; and remaining space for the power company to perform maintenance if necessary.
Q. On existing fence crossings, will a gate or gap be left after construction to access and maintain the right-of-way?
A. Gates or gaps are the standard for access through fences on a pipeline right-of-way. If the fence is a property boundary, both landowners must agree for the gate or gap to be installed.
Q. After construction, will you access my property from wherever you want, or will access be limited to the right-of-way?
A. Generally, Dominion will access the right-of-way from access roads and the right-of-way where easements have been purchased. Dominion does not have unlimited right to access to your property.
Q. What will be done to stop people from trespassing on the right-of-way after construction?
A. Dominion will replace any fencing that is disturbed during construction. In some cases, land agents are available to discuss specific concerns.
Q. What if I don't sign the easement?
A. This means that you and Dominion have failed to reach an agreement for access to your property. Dominion has a good record of successfully negotiating easements - that is, in a very high percentage of cases, we find a way to design an agreement that works for both the company and the landowner. However, if an agreement is not reached, after receiving FERC approval for the project, Dominion would have the right to use the court system to gain access through eminent domain powers granted to it by the federal Natural Gas Act.
Q. Once the pipeline is in the ground, how close can I build a home?
A. Following construction, Dominion will have a 50-foot permanent easement - 25 feet on both sides of the centerline. A landowner can build up to, but not on the easement.
Q. Can other utilities use this easement in the future?
A. Other utilities would need to negotiate a new easement with each landowner. The easement agreement that Dominion will have with each landowner will be for natural gas pipeline facilities only. Dominion cannot sublet the agreement to other companies or utilities.
Q. Will I have to pay taxes on the money received for compensation?
A. It is best to consult your tax advisor.
Q. Will I have to keep paying property taxes on the right-of-way?
A. Yes. Dominion will not own the land for the pipeline. We will hold only an easement for it. You still will have ownership and use of the right-of-way except that you will not be able to build on it.
Q. When will I be paid for the easement?
A. Negotiations for the easement will include a detailed discussion on payments for the easement. Typically, Dominion will obtain an easement option and make a down payment on the full consideration. The balance of the consideration will be paid prior to installation of the pipeline.
Q. Can I plant shrubs or trees on the right-of-way?
A. After construction, normal farming operations can resume. Landscaping can be planted within the right-of-way in yard areas. However, if Dominion should need access to the pipeline in these areas for maintenance work, these plants will have to be removed. It is best to discuss your plans with your land agent during easement negotiations.
Q. Can I build a driveway over the pipeline?
A. If you have specific plans to build a driveway over the area of the pipeline right-of-way, you should show these to your land agent during negotiations for the easement. If, some time after construction, you have plans for a driveway installation, you must obtain prior approvals from Dominion.
Q. Can I cross the right-of-way with logging trucks and heavy equipment?
A. Heavy equipment that crosses an unprotected pipeline can cause damage. Please advise your land agent during negotiations if you will have heavy equipment crossing the pipeline, and the pipeline can be constructed to accommodate this use. See the answer to the question above.
Q. In general, what is the conventional excavation process and what disturbance can be anticipated?
A. Generally, the surface disturbance due to pipeline construction is short-lived and every effort is made to begin the revegetation process immediately after final grading.
Q. What size area is needed to stage equipment for crossing streams, creeks and wetlands, using both directional drilling and conventional methods?
A. Many variables affect the amount of extra workspace required to stage equipment for traditional stream, creek and wetland crossings. These variables include crossing width, crossing depth and topography surrounding the wetland or waterbody. Site surveys are required in order to minimize the impacts to the environment. Dominion places extra workspaces and staging at least 50 feet from the edge of wetlands or waterbodies except for special conditions.
Q. What techniques for grading would be necessary for approaching streams, creeks and wetlands?
A. Dominion will follow the FERC's "Wetland and Waterbody Construction and Mitigation Procedures," as well as requirements from the appropriate state, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and those of any other agency having regulatory jurisdiction.
Q. In general, what methods will be used to restore disturbed areas to their original condition?
A. The land will be restored to its original contour following completion of construction. The land will be replanted according to any of the following in order:
Topsoil segregation and soil compaction mitigation shall be performed in agricultural lands where required.
Q. What happens, both during construction and on a permanent basis, to lands within 100 feet of streams, creeks, rivers and wetlands?
A. This varies on a case-by-case basis depending on land use, topography and construction technique. It will be addressed in the FERC Resource Reports for specific wetland and waterbody crossings.
Q. If directional drilling failed, what would be the consequences?
A. Dominion is required to provide a contingency plan to the FERC in the case of a failure of a horizontal directional drill. Although the details of the plan are still being finalized, a conventional crossing would be the prime alternative.
Q. If the pipeline trench splits my property, will I be able to access the other side of my property during construction?
A. Arrangements can be made for you to have complete access to your property. Discuss your access needs with your land agent.
Q. Will my water well or spring be impacted by construction? Will you be responsible for any damages to my well or spring?
A. All wells within 150 feet of the construction will be tested both prior to and following construction. Dominion is responsible for any damage to your well that is caused by the pipeline construction.
Q. Will there be any blasting on my property?
A. Dominion will minimize the use of blasting to only those areas that require it. If blasting is done, seismographs and a proven procedure followed by certified blasters will be utilized to assure that vibrations from the blasting are kept to a minimum in order to protect property.
Q. How close to a house or other structure can you place the pipeline?
A. Generally speaking, the pipeline should not be closer than 25 feet to any structure. There are certain instances where construction constraints may necessitate the pipeline being closer than 25 feet to a structure, but these situations are few and will be discussed on a case-by-case basis with individual landowners.
Q. What will be done with livestock during construction?
A. Where necessary, Dominion will construct temporary fencing and gates to contain and protect livestock from the construction process. Dominion will make sure landowners have access to livestock for feeding, watering, etc. Land agents are available to discuss these concerns.
Q. What is the size of the pipe?
A. The size of the pipe will be dictated by market needs, which are still being evaluated.
Q. How long will pipe segments be and how and where will they be shaped?
A. An individual piece of pipe is called a "joint." Pipe joints for this project will be ordered in either "double random" or "triple random" lengths. The requirements for double random lengths are: the individual joints are between 14 feet and 45 feet long with the average of the entire pipe order being 35 feet per joint. The triple random length requirements are: the individual joints are between 21 feet and 65 feet long with the average of the entire order being 52.5 feet per joint. The pipe will be competitively bid, but not until the year before construction. Only established, qualified bidders will have the opportunity to present proposals. The pipe would be manufactured at the pipe manufacturer's facility to meet the required codes and company specifications.
Q. Will pipe be thicker at bends or other locations? What thickness if so?
A. No. Natural gas travels around bends without a need for thicker pipes. The line pipe has limitations on how much it can be bent. For situations where the bend is more than is allowed in the line pipe, manufactured bends are used. These are called elbows.
Q. How long will construction take?
A. Construction of the project facilities is expected to take about 18 months. Generally, pipelines are constructed in a sequential process that includes the following steps:
Work will not occur on all properties each day and there may be significant lapses between certain activities. The construction schedule for each property will vary depending on the size of the property, the amount of pipeline/easement on the property, topography, weather and other conditions.
Q. How deep will the pipe be buried?
A. The pipeline will have a minimum of three feet of cover.
Q. What kind of steel is the pipe made of?
A. The steel used to manufacture pipe for the pipelines will meet or exceed API - 5L specifications.
Q. How far apart are the mainline valves?
A. The mainline valves will be spaced according to the U.S. Department of Transportation code. The spacing in the code is determined by the population density. In the least populated areas, every point on the line must be within 10 miles of a valve; the second least densely populated areas within 7.5 miles of a valve, the third least populated areas within 4 miles, and the most populated areas within 2.5 miles. The actual spacing is being determined and will be included in the FERC application.
Q. How much space does a mainline valve require?
A. Typically, a 50 foot by 50 foot square, with road access is required.
Q. Will you have the right to use my access road after construction?
A. Easements for all access roads utilized for this project will be purchased as permanent access roads and may be used from time to time by Dominion to check the pipeline and perform routine maintenance operations and safety checks.
Q. How will the line be inspected once it's built?
A. The pipelines will be inspected and tested regularly to identify potential problems. During pipeline construction, all pipe welds are x-rayed to verify that the welds meet the requirements of API-1104.
Then, before the pipe is actually placed in initial operation, it undergoes hydrostatic testing. The pipeline is divided into different length sections. The sections are filled with water and pressurized to levels well above normal operating pressure, as required by DOT code. Any pipe sections with weaknesses are replaced or repaired before the pipe is put into service. After construction, there is no routine hydrostatic testing of the pipeline.
Pipelines in operation are visually inspected by personnel flying and walking the pipeline right-of-way. This visual inspection looks for any natural or manmade conditions that could impact the pipe or affect its safe operation. Factors such as excavation, construction work, soil erosion or landslides could pose problems for a pipeline.
The effectiveness of the system-wide cathodic protection process is tested routinely with "pipe-to-soil" inspections. Pipelines also are regularly surveyed using sensitive devices called "sniffers" to check for leaks. Sniffers are sophisticated electronic devices that can detect even minute levels of natural gas in the air. Any leak detected is located and repaired immediately.
Even though pipelines operate underground and out of sight, they can be inspected internally using modern technology. Dominion uses this "smart pigging" technology to measure and analyze conditions along the pipeline's inner and outer walls. The "pig" device travels through the pipelines and electronically reads and records the slightest change in pipe wall thickness. These changes can pinpoint potential problems before they become problems.
Q. Describe method and frequency of pigging and hydrostatic pressure testing or other inspection strategies.
A. An internal inspection will be made right after construction is complete. Information from this inspection will be used as a baseline to compare against future inspections. Several factors are considered to determine the smart pigging frequency. Future inspections would be made with a smart pig, probably every seven to 10 years.
Q. What safety precautions will you take during construction?
A. Danger to the general public associated with natural gas pipeline construction is minimal. No unauthorized personnel will be allowed into the construction area. However, landowners who want to monitor the construction on their property will be allowed access with the appropriate escort and safety equipment.
Q. What welding safety guidelines will be followed, i.e. frequency of inspection, type of inspection, etc.?
A. Every weld on the pipeline will be non-destructively tested according to API-1104. The currently accepted method is to use x-ray, but this method could be replaced in the future by other non-destructive procedures that would meet DOT code.
Q. How does your leak detection system work?
A. The natural gas pipeline system is monitored 24 hours a day by Dominion's Gas Control Department personnel. They use computer-assisted control centers that can detect and assess changes in pressures and flows. The company's operational emphasis on safety includes compliance with the Code of Federal Regulations, 49 CFR Part 192, and involves regular patrols of the facilities by experienced observers in low-flying aircraft and routine ground patrols. After construction, an internal inspection tool, known as a smart pig, will be run on a regular basis, probably every seven to 10 years.
Q. How will a leak be handled once the pipelines are in use?
A. Dominion follows a procedure that outlines repair methods for various types of situations. The procedure is based on extensive research completed in the natural gas industry. The type of repair will vary with the situation. In most cases, the repair would likely involve removing the pipeline from service and replacing the leaking pipe joint.
Q. How will a leak be identified and what is the maximum expected time between a leak and the ability to shut off the gas flow?
A. Leaks can be identified by various means, including aerial patrol, foot patrol, pressure monitoring, and third-party notifications. In most cases, the leak can be isolated within a short period of time by remotely operating the mainline shutoff valves.
Q. What is the volume of gas that could potentially be leaked within that time frame?
A. The volume of gas escaping from a leak depends on the size of the hole, the pressure in the pipeline, and the amount of time the leak occurs. Every leak will have a different volume loss.
Q. Describe your disaster response plan.
A. When Dominion gets a report of a gas emergency involving our facilities, personnel are required to undertake the following steps:
When our personnel arrive at the scene of the problem, we ask responding emergency units to
Guidelines For Responding Emergency Units
In any emergency, accurate communication and quick cooperation between Dominion and fire or police units is essential. When Dominion initially communicates with any emergency response units, we will indicate the facilities involved, the design and operating parameters, the nature of the product involved, and the details of our response to the situation. Normally we will dispatch personnel to the area immediately. We will also establish and maintain mobile communications with the site until the emergency has been resolved.
Usually any emergency or potential emergency will be detected and reported immediately through Dominion's ongoing monitoring of its facilities. However, there may be situations when emergency units may report emergencies where our facilities are directly or indirectly involved.
If you are reporting such an emergency to Dominion, please provide all the data you can. Information about the facility, the nature of the product, the location, and the observed condition of our facilities is needed. Your information will be used to determine our initial response to the situation.
Generally the most effective way to respond to an emergency involving our facilities is to shut off the flow of the gas. Please remember that shutting off the flow is the responsibility of Dominion. Non-company personnel should never attempt to use valves and controls. Dominion's personnel know the piping systems involved and will make sure that correct actions are taken.
Q. What types of safety problems will be communicated to the county and to whom?
A. Federal code requires notifications to DOT's Office of Pipeline Safety for incidents and safety-related conditions. Required local contacts would be made by the Company's Operations Department.
Q. How will you notify landowners, fire crews, and county officials of problems?
A. Implementation of Dominion's Emergency Plan will include a call to the local 911 center (or first-responder fire department if there is no 911 service) and/or law enforcement notifying them of the situation and requesting assistance, if necessary. Company employees on the scene or local emergency personnel will notify nearby residents, who will be evacuated if the situation warrants. Nonresident landowners will be notified by phone or mail depending on the situation and the availability of the landowner. County officials, such as the emergency response coordinator, will be notified by company employees, either immediately or as soon as possible. The first priority of the company is to protect human life.
Q. How do you train local fire departments and what type of material/funding will you provide?
A. Initially, local fire departments will be invited to the closest compressor station site for a tour. This will include a description of the properties of natural gas and the equipment used. In addition to a tour, we will conduct a "fire school," which allows the fire departments to experience a natural gas fire. No special materials are provided. Funding, in addition to tax dollars to the county, usually consists of an annual donation to the first-responder fire departments. After the initial training, all emergency personnel will be invited to an informational program every three years. Tours of facilities by emergency response groups are always available. Please call to make arrangements in advance.
Q. Will fail-safe relief valves be mechanical or computerized?
A. Relief valves vent gas from the pipeline, and are located only at compressor stations. These valves are usually mechanical and are secondary safety devices. Computer controls are the first line of overpressure control. There will be valves that will vent gas from the pipeline, but they are called "blowoff" valves. At the blowoff valves, there are also valves in the pipeline, called "mainline" valves. These valves stop the flow of gas through the pipeline. Some of the main line and blowoff valves are planned to be remote controlled by company personnel, not computers.
Q. How is safety maintained at mainline valves?
A. Mainline valve sites are fenced with a 6- or 8-foot high cyclone-type fence with gated entrance that is kept locked.
Q. Are the mainline valves automatic shut-off activated by pressure loss?
A. No, the shutoff valves will be remote controlled with the ability to manually close the valves at the location.
Q. What is the backup for computer or electrical failure if computerized?
A. Electronic data will be gathered from the pipeline and sent to Dominion's Gas Control Department. If there is a problem with the Gas Control center or the building it is in, a complete backup center is located at another local facility.
Q. What other safety features (i.e., double-wall pipe, line volume and pressurization monitors) will be used?
A. The pipeline will not contain any double-wall piping. Volume flow on the pipeline will be maintained through compressor stations that are set up to pump specific volumes. Each compressor station is equipped with continuous pressure control equipment and engine shutdowns to ensure that the pipeline's maximum operating pressure is not exceeded.
Q. How will the pipeline benefit my community?
A. The pipeline will pay tax dollars to the local county and provide natural gas infrastructure that is critical for economic development in many areas.
Q. Can I tap into this line to supply natural gas to my home or business?
A. Dominion is an open-access pipeline, so any entity meeting the criteria specified in Dominion's FERC Gas Tariff could receive deliveries from the pipeline. Connections to the pipeline require reimbursement for all costs to tap into the line and the construction of a measuring and regulating station (M&R). The cost of a tap and M&R generally is about $1 million. You also must contract with Dominion to transport or ship the gas on its pipeline system.
Q. What environmental regulations cover the pipeline construction process?
A. We work with federal, state and local agencies to design the pipeline route to assure that the impact on the natural and human environment is minimized. Among the federal programs or regulations that will be reviewed for any project impact and any related compliance are:
The project also will be reviewed for potential impacts under state and local regulatory programs for environmental issues related to streams, wetlands, threatened and endangered species, air, etc., including programs that implement the federal programs listed above.
Q. Are air emissions from the compressor stations a concern?
A. Air emission controls will be incorporated into the facility designs as directed by the environmental agencies. The compressor units operate on natural gas fuel and use a low-emission combustion process.
Q. How noisy is a new compressor station?
A. In accordance with FERC regulations, the design requirement for compressor stations is an average day-night sound level of 55 decibels as perceived at the nearest public noise receptor. Normal conversation is about 60-65 decibels. Dominion implements various mitigation measures to meet noise requirements, including the installation of engine exhaust mufflers, gas blow-down silencers, low-noise ancillary equipment, acoustical piping blankets and acoustically insulated compressor buildings.
Q. Do compressor stations use water for operations?
A. Water is not utilized for cooling or compression at the facilities, and there are no operational discharges to surface water, nor is there use of surface water. The only use of water are wells to provide domestic water for employees and limited discharge to septic systems for sanitary waste. A spill prevention control and countermeasures plan would be developed and implemented at each site.
Q. Where will the water for hydrostatic testing come from?
A. Water for hydrostatic testing will come from streams and rivers along the pipeline route. The actual water bodies to be used will be included in the FERC application. Withdrawal of water will be made in accordance with all state permit requirements.
Q. Where will the hydrostatic test water go when testing is complete?
A. The water will be discharged back into a well-vegetated upland area, subject to landowner approval, in a manner to avoid erosion.
Q. What is the process for hydrostatic testing?
A. Water is withdrawn from the predetermined water source through a screened intake hose, per any applicable state permits. Once the pipe segment to be tested is full of water, the pressure is pumped up to the required test pressure. The test is held for the required time, usually eight hours. After the pressure is relieved, the water is discharged through the erosion control structures required in the permits.
Q. What will happen with welding contaminants in the water?
A. The water will be filtered and periodically tested during discharge, pursuant to applicable permits.