A natural gas liquids storage project in Ohio is moving ahead after regulators issued permits for the development of three planned storage wells in salt caverns in Monroe County.
Powhatan Salt Co., a company associated with the Mountaineer NGL storage project, plans to store natural gas liquids (NGLs), mostly ethane, which would be used by petrochemical cracker plants to make polyethylene pellets used in plastic products. One such plant is being built by Shell in Beaver County, and a second was proposed by PTTGC in Belmont County, Ohio, but it is on indefinite hold while the developer tries to find a new financial partner.
The permits had been approved last year, but Powhatan asked the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to cancel them after environmental groups challenged the permits, arguing the proper administrative procedures had not been followed. After reviewing the project and responding to concerns and objections, the permits were approved again on Aug. 30.
The Class III storage wells will be developed through solution mining process. “During this process the bedded salt underground is dissolved by circulating fresh water into the well and extracted brine. The process of dissolving and extracting the salt creates an underground void or cavern,” an ODNR document states. After the cavern is built, it will be filled with NGLs for storage, and will be regulated by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
While the original intent of the wells was to store NGLs, a news report earlier this year indicated that the developer is also exploring the possibility of storing hydrogen and determining if a market exists. The nearby Long Ridge Energy Terminal announced plans to convert its combined-cycle power plant to a “green hydrogen” fuel source, starting by blending hydrogen with natural gas and gradually increasing the use of hydrogen.
Hydrogen has been getting a lot of attention recently as a potential fuel source of the future. It can be produced in various ways, and when hydrogen is burned as fuel it emits only water vapor. Green hydrogen is produced using carbon-free energy sources, such as electrolysis powered by renewable energy. It can also be produced from natural gas, producing some CO2 emissions, and is known as “blue hydrogen” if those emissions are captured and sequestered.