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Mountaineer NGL Storage LLC exploring green hydrogen demand

CLARINGTON — Mountaineer NGL Storage LLC is exploring green options for its Appalachian Storage Hub in Monroe County.

The natural gas storage facility is gauging interest in the possibility of storing carbon-free hydrogen in its new storage hub near Clarington in Monroe County. The company announced its interest in green hydrogen storage earlier this month and is looking to see if there is a market for it in the local region. The initiative comes after Long Ridge Energy Terminal announced its plans to convert its Hannibal power plant to a green hydrogen fuel source.

David Hooker, CEO and president of Mountaineer, said the exploration is in support of the power generation market move toward green energy solutions, including that of Long Ridge Energy Terminal, being developed at the former Ormet Corp. aluminum production site. Hooker said Long Ridge Energy Terminal had reached out to the storage company to inquire if it would be willing and able to store hydrogen; Mountaineer NGL agreed it would be able to do so. Although Long Ridge is still in early stages of planning the transition, he said.

Hooker said at this point, he is unsure where the hydrogen will come from, but the storage company wants to let others know it is willing to store hydrogen if the need is out there.

“We are a storage company. … If hydrogen is to be in play in the region, I think it’s going to require storage. Big power plants are pretty sensitive to fuel supply, and we just want to tell the world that we can store hydrogen in the caverns,” he said.

Mountaineer plans to build salt caverns approximately 1 mile underground that will then be used to store barrels of natural gas liquids, such as ethane that may serve as feedstock for a proposed PTT Global Chemical ethane cracker plant at Dilles Bottom.

“We use salt because it’s impermeable — you can’t get in there with water, and nothing is going to escape out of it,” he said.

Hooker said the salt caverns that are planned to be built at the site near Clarington are the safest and most environmentally sound means for storing hydrogen.

According to information provided by Dan Williamson, who works with Mountaineer NGL on behalf of public relations firm Paul Werth Associates, Powhatan Salt Company will be mining salt from the Salina formation as part of the process to establish the caverns. The 3- to 5-acre caverns eventually created well below the Marcellus Shale, will be impermeable, keeping the ground water and land safe and clean.

Williamson said Mountaineer NGL will acquire the caverns after they’ve reached a safe and usable size for bulk storage operations. Already, more than a billion barrels of liquid hydrocarbons are stored in salt in facilities throughout the country.

Williamson stressed that no storage is proposed under the Ohio River.

Some local and national environmental advocates, though, have concerns about the project. A virtual meeting was held Thursday evening in which those groups shared information and comments, with the overall goal of telling the public to reach out to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources during a 30-day project comment period that ends Feb. 6.

The meeting was hosted by groups including Concerned Ohio River Residents, the Buckeye Environmental Network, The Ohio River Valley Institute, the Freshwater Accountability Project, and EarthJustice. Barnesville resident Jill Hunkler outlined concerns about what the activists fear a storage facility could bring to the Ohio Valley.

“These materials are highly flammable,” she said. “Many have explosive compounds and are used in the petrochemical production. This site is very problematic.”

She also pointed out the location is in close proximity to drinking water supplies, posing what she believes is a threat to the environment and public health. Other participants expressed similar fears and questioned whether job creation and economic development would result from the development.

Hooker said Mountaineer is embracing the market transition to clean and green energy sources and is available to store a variety of products.

“We don’t know who’s out there that might have an interest in storage for hydrogen, but that’s why we’re doing an open season,” he said. “We just want to let people know if they need storage, we’re there and available.”

Hooker said the company looks forward to supporting the evolving hydrogen market and companies such as Long Ridge Energy Terminal as the transition to clean burning hydrogen for power generation occurs.

Mountaineer NGL Storage plans to launch a non-binding open season sometime this year to gauge further interest in hydrogen bulk storage.

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