By now, most Lake Norman residents realize they’re are in the middle of one of the fastest growing areas in the entire state.The region boasts another ‘middle’ that fewer residents know about: The middle, or more specifically, midpoint of a massive underground interstate pipeline that carries natural gas from South Texas to New York.The 10,200-mile line, known as the Transco Pipeline, slices right through Huntersville, Cornelius and Mooresville on its way northeast, connecting to a compression station in Mooresville east of Interstate 77, and just south of Exit 31. The line carries 9.6 billion cubic feet of gas daily and provides significant quantities to North Carolina utilities.“That molecule of natural gas used to fuel an oven in North Carolina was probably extracted from an offshore oil platform deep in the Gulf of Mexico, transported onshore, processed, then delivered to a local utility via the Transco transmission pipeline,” said Christopher L. Stockton, Transco spokesman with the Williams Co. of Tulsa Oklahoma, which owns and operates the pipeline system. In fact, Piedmont Natural Gas, which serves most of the Lake Norman region, is one of the pipeline’s largest customers in the state.Calling the transmission line simply a pipeline is a bit of an understatement. The Transco pipeline system, which was originally built in the 1950’s, actually consists of about 10,200 miles of from three to five large-diameter steel pipe, ranging in diameter from 12-42 inches, running parallel along the Texas to New York route. There are about 700 miles of pipe in North Carolina alone, delivering nearly all of the natural gas consumed in the state. Yet, except for compression stations like the one in Mooresville, or the land immediately above the pipeline routes, few people would ever know it exists because all the action is underground. “A lot of people refer to these underground interstate pipelines as an underground highway,” Stockton said. Some of the pipes even run under Lake Norman, having been built prior to the creation of the lake in the early 60’s.One of the few areas where the presence of the pipeline may be seen is in the swath of open land above the pipeline. “In areas where the pipeline runs, the landowner still maintains ownership of the land but we own an easement, which gives us the right to install and maintain the pipeline,” Stockton said. “For safety reasons, landowners are not allowed to build any permanent structures or plant trees on the pipeline easement. This is because we need the ability to access the pipeline for inspections or in the event of an emergency. We’ve also found that tree roots can damage the pipeline’s protective coating.”The open regions above the pipelines are marked by yellow posts. The pipeline marker posts provides information concerning the line that is situated at that location. One of the pipeline routes where development is prohibited is located just west of Birkdale Village in Huntersville. It continues to the northeast, crossing Interstate 77 north of Exit 25 and then running through the Oakhurst development in Cornelius, eventually connecting with the Mooresville compression station.The Mooresville station is one of about 50 similar compressor facilities located every 50 miles to 100 miles along the pipeline system. The station consist of large engines that push the gas through the pipeline system. Security is very tight around the station, which is fenced in. While utilities that provide natural gas are one of the Transco pipeline’s major customers, the fastest-growing use of natural gas is actually for generating electricity. The price of natural gas is at near historic-lows, which combined with its environmental benefits, have made it the fuel of choice for many electric providers.In fact, Williams recently completed a $214 million project expanding Transco pipeline facilities in the Carolinas, Georgia and Alabama. The project was primarily designed to serve the growing needs of electric power generators such as Duke Energy.While there are no specific expansion projects planned at the moment for the Lake Norman section of the pipeline, that could always change. “ We work closely with Transco customers to respond to their growing natural gas needs, and that could certainly mean building new facilities, or expanding our existing pipeline infrastructure,” Stockton said.
Friday, Jul. 19, 2013
Major gas pipeline runs through Lake Norman region
Dave Vieser is a freelance writer for Lake Norman News. Have a story idea for Dave? Email him at email@example.com.
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