NORTH KINGSVILLE — In December of 2019, a group of elected officials, business leaders and construction workers gathered for the ribbon-cutting ceremony of a natural gas pipeline that runs from Meadville, Pa., to North Kingsville.

Construction on the Risberg Pipeline started in spring of 2019 and cost an estimated $86 million, according to the pipeline’s website. The pipeline was built by RH energytrans.

“We have known for a long time that this part of Ohio was in need of natural gas supply to support not only existing businesses, but also new business opportunities,” Oivind Risberg, owner and CEO of RH energytrans, said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“I’m very happy that we spent the last few years 100-percent dedicated to get gas in here, because I got tired of listening to the need for natural gas supply when we have so much of it underneath us.”

Officials also opened a valve at the event, letting natural gas flow through the pipeline to Dominion, which is contracted to take a significant amount of the gas from the pipeline.

The pipeline has been in the works for several years, said Dennis Holbrook, a spokesperson for RH energytrans.

“We’ve had a long-standing relationship with Dominion,” Holbrook said. “And we’ve talked at different times about the proximity of our system to theirs, the east Ohio area.”

RH energytrans hoped to start construction in the fall of 2018, but regulatory issues delayed construction until early 2019, Holbrook said.

“The pace may have been a bit slower, but we did well in terms of passing muster with the regular inspections that were taking place,” Holbrook said. “[The testing] took place throughout the construction to assure environmental compliance, in particular. So, I think, given the breadth of the project, I think that was very encouraging.”

The majority of the line is 12-inch diameter pipe, Holbrook said. It can transport 55 million BTUs of natural gas per day, Holbrook said. There were 28 miles of new pipeline laid during the construction that connect to an existing 32 miles of pipe, according to the company’s website.

The project was delayed by wet wether in the spring of 2019, slowing down construction.

If demand increases, the amount of natural gas through the pipeline can also be increased, Holbrook said. The expansion could be done by increasing the compression of the gas, he said. 

RH energytrans can also construct a pipeline running parallel to a six-mile stretch of pipe that is only eight inches in diameter, or replace that smaller pipe with a larger one, a process called looping, Holbrook said. That narrower section of pipeline would act as a bottleneck for the flow of natural gas.

“If the need is there, there is an ability to expand,” Holbrook said. “The bigger part was getting the pipeline in place to begin with.”

During the early phases of the project, a number of people asked Holbrook why not build it bigger initially, he said.

“Of course, I explained that pipe is extremely expensive,” Holbrook said. “Every time you upgrade to a different-sized pipe, it adds basically tens of millions of dollars to the overall project. So what we put in was what we thought was a fair size for piping, with the ability to use compression and some looping later on, as opposed to putting a larger-diameter pipe in now.”

There will be minimal environmental impact to increasing the capacity of the line, Holbrook said.

Work still needed to be done after the ribbon-cutting, restoring land over where the pipeline was buried. At this point, some work needs to be finished on one access road, then work on the pipeline will be finished in Ohio, Holbrook said. There is still some remediation work that needs to be done in Pennsylvania, he said.

Everything is in place for Dominion to utilize the natural gas from the pipeline, Holbrook said.

Dominion spokesperson Neil Durbin said that the Risberg Pipeline is operational at both ends.

“For Dominion Energy Ohio, the Risberg Pipeline provides additional natural gas capacity to help us serve an area that has been supply-constrained for years,” Durbin said. “This new pipeline also enables Dominion Energy Ohio to provide more supply reliability to the Ashtabula area, as well as drive economic growth there in the months and years to come.”

The Risberg Pipeline was one of the first projects Growth Partnership Director Greg Myers worked on when he joined the organization. 

“[Natural gas] was one of the missing pieces of the development puzzle we didn’t have for years,” Myers said.

He said the Risberg Pipeline was what made the Petmin pig iron plant — planned for the Ashtabula Harbor — possible.

“Without [the pipeline], we wouldn’t be talking about any additional development projects that required sizable volumes of natural gas,” Myers said.

The pipeline project would not have happened without Dominion, because Dominion agreed to take the natural gas, Myers said.

There are 10 to 15 new projects or expansions of existing companies that are being actively worked on in the area, Myers said.

“Many of those, we wouldn’t be talking about if not for the Risberg Pipeline,” he said.

Natural gas is useful as a way to operate industrial furnaces, Myers said.

“Our bigger facilities, whether it’s a company like Ashta Chemicals, or Ineos Pigments, or the Petmin project, the need for natural gas is critical in terms of their operational capacity,” he said.

The county has been out of the running on a number of projects due to a lack of reliable natural gas, said Casey Kozlowski, president of the Ashtabula County Board of Commissioners.

“This is a big deal for Ashtabula County, and it’s going to help fill a void that has existed for many years,” Kozlowski said. “And from an economic development prospective, it’s going to enable us to be now in the running for larger-scale projects, such as the Petmin project, that is in the works already.”

Access to natural gas is a prerequisite for for many projects, Kozlowski said.

“Many projects, they just looked right by us, because we haven’t been able to necessarily check that item off the list in years past,” he said.

The pipeline will put Ashtabula County in a good position for other large-scale economic development projects in the future, Kozlowski said.

Natural gas is one of the key components of infrastructure needed for economic development, State Rep. John Patterson said. Ashtabula County has had access to many kinds of infrastructure, but lacked natural gas, he said

“The main line that came into Ashtabula County traversed eastern Cuyahoga [County[ and Lake County,” Patterson said. “And by the time it got to Ashtabula, there wasn’t enough left for heavy commercial use.”

Patterson said the pipeline has opened a new wave of economic development.

The COVID-19 outbreak has hindered economic development in the county, Patterson said. But he said the infrastructure in Ashtabula County isn’t going away.

“When COVID passes, we’re going to be ready,” he said.

In addition to the end of the pipeline in North Kingsville, the city of Conneaut has placed two taps on the pipeline. One is located near the city’s industrial park and the other is near Route 7.

Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted was in North Kingsville for the ribbon-cutting in December.

“Gov. [Mike] DeWine and I really appreciate the investment that’s being made here today,” Husted said at the event. “We’re excited about what’s happening here. We appreciate RH’s investment. We appreciate Dominion stepping up and leading. We want to be great partners for the long run with you.”

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