Fire officials not worried about safety of proposed natural gas storage facility in Epping
EPPING — Fire officials say they’ve met with representatives from Liberty Utilities and are confident the utility will have proper safety measures in place for its proposed natural gas storage facility. Fire Chief Don DeAngelis said the fire department has reviewed the recently unveiled project and will work with the company on training and its fire protection features. “We’ve already put a call out to the state fire marshal and asked for their technical expertise,” DeAngelis said. Liberty officials met with selectmen Monday night to provide an overview of the project, which calls for the construction of a pipeline known as “Granite Bridge” that will run for 27 miles along Route 101 from Stratham to Manchester. As part of the project, the company is planning to locate a storage facility in an abandoned quarry adjacent to Route 101 near Exit 6 that would feature a 170-foot high, 200-foot in diameter tank to hold up to 2 billion cubic feet of liquified natural gas. In its liquid state, which occurs when natural gas is cooled to -260 degrees, officials said liquified natural gas isn’t flammable or explosive. The project still needs approval from several state and federal agencies, including the state’s Public Utilities Commission, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, and the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee. Pipeline construction isn’t expected to begin until next year at the earliest. According to the company’s construction timeline, the storage facility wouldn’t be finished until 2022. Liberty officials have insisted that the storage facility will be safe and will feature the most robust tank design known as a “full containment tank system,” which is a tank housed within a tank. The company describes the tank system as a “free standing inner tank surrounded by a second free standing tank designed to hold the entire liquid capacity of the inner tank.” Officials say the system adds an additional layer of complete containment if a natural gas release were to occur. Located in the quarry, the tank system would have impoundment areas to help contain liquid during a release. Officials said it would also have on-site automatic fire suppression and safety systems. DeAngelis said that if a leak occurred the natural gas, which is lighter than air, would rise into the atmosphere and diffuse, unlike propane, which remains near the ground and can create hazards and find an ignition source. “If it does have an accident it would be contained and go straight to atmosphere,” he said. The company plans to meet with other towns along the pipeline route to present the plan and raise more public awareness.