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Weymouth natural gas compressor delayed after emergency shutdowns

The natural gas compressor station at Weymouth, Mass. is under federal investigation after shutting down twice in the last four weeks due to unplanned gas releases.

The Weymouth Natural Gas Compressor Station is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration after two unplanned gas leaks which led to the emergency shutdown of the station twice in the past four weeks. SAMUELE PETRUCCELLI/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued on Thursday a Corrective Action Order to Enbridge, the Canadian company behind the project. 

As part of its Atlantic Bridge Project, Enbridge constructed the station to repressurize natural gas as it is transported from Pennsylvania to Maine and Canada. By using a turbine connected to a compressor, the natural gas then has enough pressure to continue the journey, according to Enbridge.

“In the interest of safety, we decided to temporarily pause proceeding with Weymouth Compressor Station operations to ensure we can complete a thorough review and be certain the facility is fully ready for service,” spokesperson Max Bergeron wrote in an email.

Enbridge had planned to begin shipping natural gas from the station on Thursday.

The Corrective Action Order states the station location’s proximity to populated areas and a road with heavy traffic as reasons for the temporary pause.

It states that “continued operation of the Station without corrective measures is or would be hazardous to life, property, or the environment,” and that ignoring this order would “result in the likelihood of serious harm.”

The unplanned gas releases at Weymouth, which triggered the federal investigation, occured on Sept. 11 and 30.

Onsite operators identified an O-ring gasket failure as the first release’s cause and shut down the compressor to protect station employees. Enbridge estimated 35 pounds of volatile organic compounds — gases that include chemicals that may induce negative health effects — were released during this incident. The CAO approximated 169,000 cubic feet of natural gas were released.

The cause of the second accident from Wednesday is unknown and under investigation by PHMSA. The CAO estimated 275,000 standard cubic feet of natural gas was released.

As PHMSA investigates, station operations are on hold.

Bergeron wrote Enbridge is cooperating with PHMSA to make sure the company complies with regulations. 

Local activists have criticized the plant’s construction for years.

The Fore River Residents Against Compressor Station regularly leads demonstrations voicing disapproval of Enbridge’s operations.

FRRACS led a demonstration outside the compressor site Saturday, along with members of Red Rebel Brigade, an international performance troupe dedicated to highlighting climate change.

Concerned that the compressor’s potential dangers would go unnoticed, Valerie Doyle, a nearby resident, attended Saturday’s event.

“Things like this are happening all over the place,” Doyle said. “We are all just overwhelmed by the daily onslaught of news and drama that we can’t pay attention to all of it.” 

One Weymouth resident who attended the protest said the plant should end operations permanently.

“Shut it down completely” Deborah Drew said. “It’s the wrong place for this. Just leave it as it is. Just kill it.”

Resistance against Enbridge’s compressor station spans beyond its neighbors. In a letter to Enbridge President Al Monaco, U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey wrote that the company should cease all activities at the station.

“Enbridge should prioritize the health and safety of its workers and the Fore River community,” the senators wrote. “It would seem prudent for Enbridge to hold off on operationalizing a project that could very well be forced to shut down in the coming months, especially as immediate safety concerns persist.”

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