The Department of Energy is proceeding with an environmental study of building a natural gas pipeline that would travel under the Columbia River to the center of the Hanford nuclear reservation.
Cascade Natural Gas Corp. has been awarded a task order worth up to $5 million to provide technical expertise and other support to DOE to prepare the legally required study, called an environmental impact statement. Cascade also would potentially provide the natural gas as the licensed supplier in the Hanford area.
The project could help meet DOE goals of reducing fuel costs, greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on foreign fuel sources, according to a notice in the Federal Register on Monday.
DOE is interested in using natural gas as the primary fuel source for the Hanford vitrification plant and to replace the use of diesel fuel at the 242-A Evaporator. The vitrification plant will turn radioactive waste from past weapons plutonium production into a stable glass form for disposal starting in 2019. The evaporator is used to reduce the amount of liquid radioactive waste, which reduces the amount of waste that must be treated for disposal.
If diesel fuel is used as previously planned at the $12.2 billion vitrification plant, it will need 30,000 gallons a day for boilers that generate steam for heating and for operations required to process radioactive waste. In addition, the evaporator is expected to use 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel a day in future operations.
Using natural gas instead of diesel could save $900 million over 28 years and eliminate six tank truck trips per day to haul diesel fuel to the two plants, according to DOE.
Diesel fuel would still be used as a backup. But over the lifetime of the two projects, greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced by about 1 million tons, according to DOE.
Having boilers that could be fired by natural gas or diesel could improve the reliability of the vit plant and the evaporator, according to DOE.
A year ago, DOE was discussing a natural gas pipeline that would be a minimum of 6 inches in diameter, but the Mid-Columbia Energy Initiative had asked DOE to consider putting in a larger gas pipeline.
The Federal Register notice said the environmental study could look at alternative pipeline diameters of approximately 12 to 20 inches in diameter.
More than likely, the pipeline would include 10- and 12-inch diameter sections, said Mark Hanson, a spokesman for Cascade. A project of this size would be planned to meet needs beyond immediate project plans, he said.
The Tri-City Development Council has discussed the benefits of being able to offer natural gas to areas proposed for industrial use at the sound end of Hanford.
"The community and TRIDEC want to make sure that additional infrastructure opens to a broader range of development," said TRIDEC President Carl Adrian.
The 30-mile pipeline is proposed to tap into the existing Williams Northwest Pipe transmission line in Franklin County, north of the Pasco airport. The pipeline would be bored under the Columbia River to enter Hanford in the 300 Area just north of Richland. It then would turn northwest and parallel Route 4S, ending in the 200 East Area in central Hanford.
However, the environmental study also could consider alternate routes.
A year ago, when a 6-inch pipe was proposed, DOE estimated the cost of construction at $22 million. That included $1 million to bore under the Columbia River and $4.1 million to pay state business taxes.
The environmental study is expected to take two years to complete. The decision on whether to proceed with the project could be made in 2014 or 2015. Construction would take six months to a year.
The first step will be a public meeting from 7 to 9 p.m. Feb. 9 at the Pasco Red Lion Hotel for DOE to hear public comments about what should be considered in the environmental study.
Comments also may be mailed to Douglas Chapin, NEPA document manager, DOE Richland Operations Office, P.O. Box 550, MSIN A5-11, Richland, WA 99352. They may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments are due Feb. 22.
-- Annette Cary: 582-1533; email@example.com