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Upgrades at gas plant cut pollution

JENNAYE DERGE/Durango Herald

Ty Schemanski, a senior operator at Williams, describes the differences between the 55-year-old compressors and the new compressors that have been installed at the energy plant near Ignacio. The company celebrated completion of the project and gave a tour of the plant Friday.

By Sarah Mueller Herald staff writer

New equipment is helping natural gas and energy company Williams reduce gas emissions at its Ignacio plant.

The project, which was four years in the making, replaced seven gas compressors and three gas-fired turbines and compressors. The upgrades have cut plant’s polluting discharge by 48 percent to 88 percent, depending on the type of emissions.

The company celebrated completion of the project Friday.

Reliability and safety were the impetus for the upgrades, said Don Wicburg, general manager of Williams in the Four Corners. The company also replaced aging piping, built a new compressor building and installed new systems.

“What we in effect had was more volume coming to some of our more efficient plants, and Ignacio was one of those,” Wicburg said. “We realized that over time what that meant was we were going to have to make sure, if we had more of our volumes flowing to fewer facilities, we needed to make sure they were pretty bullet-proof from a liability and safety standpoint.”

George Angerbauer, public outreach representative, declined to reveal how much the project cost.

The new equipment makes the job easier for Ty Schemanski, a senior operator at Williams. From the plant’s control room, Schemanski regulates input to and output from the plant through computer software.

“It makes my job so much better,” he said. “We just have so much more control now.”

Producers get the gas, compress it and send it to the plant. The plant separates and processes different gas streams, Schemanski said.

Plant upgrades mean emissions of nitrogen oxide and nitrogen dioxide are down 88 percent, carbon monoxide dropped 48 percent, volatile organic compounds went down 82 percent and particulate matter fell 59 percent. The plant is also using 35 percent less raw water, Angerbauer said.

“Air quality is important to us, it’s important to our customers, the community that we live in, the (Southern Ute Indian) Tribe and our regulators here in the county,” Angerbauer said.

The company also has reduced its heat waste by recovering more of it and using a steam turbine to generate electricity for the plant.

Williams made this new equipment investment even as the local supply of natural gas supply is dwindling. Data from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission shows that gas production in La Plata County dropped 16 percent from 2010 to 2013.

“We’ve actually idled some of our facilities because of that decline in volumes,” he said. “That means that the facilities that continue to operate are that much more important. So reliability of facilities that are full, like Ignacio – that are highly utilized – becomes very important.”

Wicburg remains optimistic that the volume will return.

“We don’t believe that in the very, very long-term the volume decline is here to stay,” he said.


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