Hanford plans for natural gas pipeline under Columbia

RICHLAND — Hanford is making plans to run a natural gas pipeline under the Columbia River to provide service to the nuclear reservation.

Using natural gas to replace some diesel fuel at Hanford would be more economical and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Department of Energy. It also could be a plus for economic development on the limited areas of Hanford planned for future industrial use.

The $12.2 billion vitrification plant is expected to use 30,000 gallons of diesel fuel a day in boilers that generate steam for both operations required to process radioactive waste and also for heating.

In addition, the 242A Evaporator boilers also use diesel fuel. The evaporator reduces the amount of liquid waste waiting to be processed for disposal. It's expected to use 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel a day in future operations.

Diesel fuel still would be used as a backup. But over the lifetime of the vitrification plant and evaporator, green house gas emissions could be reduced by about 1 million tons, according to DOE.

In addition, six tanker truck trips per day to haul diesel fuel to the two plants would be eliminated.

"We're really excited about this," said Karen Flynn, the Hanford DOE assistant manager of mission support. "There is going to be significant cost savings for the government for the life of those facilities."

Savings would depend on the fluctuating cost of fuel, but DOE estimates it will save $527 million to $883 million over 28 years.

Reliability of the vitrification plant and evaporator also would improve by having boilers that could be fired by natural gas or diesel, according to DOE.

DOE is continuing to look at other options for natural gas use at Hanford, Flynn said. That could include using it at other facilities or switching to natural gas to power some of the Hanford nuclear reservation vehicles.

For DOE uses, the natural gas line would need to be a minimum of 6 inches in diameter.

But the Mid-Columbia Energy Initiative has asked DOE to consider putting in a larger gas line, said Gary Petersen, vice president of Hanford projects for the Tri-City Development Council.

"It becomes a benefit to DOE and the community to have it sized big enough for other energy projects," he said.

As plans are made to create a clean energy park on a portion of Hanford land after environmental cleanup is completed, having natural gas available could help recruit projects, he said. Solar, biofuel or other projects could use natural gas for some needs, he said.

DOE is planning to work with Cascade Natural Gas on the project, and increasing the size of the line would be up to the company, Flynn said.

Cascade has a utility service contract with the General Services Administration that allows federal agencies to pay for projects with interest over 10 years, said Steve Burnum, a DOE engineer.

The cost of construction is estimated around $22 million. That would include $16.4 million for a 6-inch pipe that would be 28.5 miles long. That includes the $1 million cost of boring under the Columbia River.

Also included in the cost is $650,000 for a metering station in central Hanford and $4.1 million to pay state business taxes.

In addition to the $22 million construction cost, DOE would need to spend $10 million to $15 million for project management and studies. They would include an environmental impact statement, security impact analyses and cultural, biological, radiological and safety reviews.

As part of the environmental impact statement, DOE would take consult with the tribes and other interested parties and take public comments.

The location of the pipeline is not set, but the current proposal calls for it to run from the area of the Tri-Cities Airport in Pasco across Franklin County to the Columbia River.

It would cross under the river near the northern boundary of Richland and the southern boundary of Hanford's 300 Area. Then it would parallel Route 4 South, known as the Hanford Highway, past the Wye Barricade to the 200 East Area in central Hanford.

The project could be done in three to four years, Flynn said.

Annette Cary: 582-1533; acary@tricityherald.com; More Hanford news at hanfordnews.com.