Gas tap discussions continue

Published 10:18 am Thursday, June 15, 2017

Discussions continue regarding memorandums of understanding (MOUs) that could result in Buckingham County having control and access to a natural gas tap off of a lateral line from the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) project.

E.M. Wright Jr.

“We talked a long time ago about some memorandums of understanding between various parties dealing with the gas service for the county,” County Attorney E.M. Wright Jr. told supervisors during their Monday meeting.

“I’ve been not reluctant to speak on that, but there’s still some discussions going on. Most all the issues concerning that are in place and the framework exists almost. There’s a private discussion that the county’s not involved in with a certain contract that gives legs to the project. I have every indication from feedback I’ve gotten from both sides, two out of the three people, that that is proceeding.”

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Kyanite Mining Corp. — Buckingham’s fourth-largest employer — is set to enter into a MOU with Columbia Gas and ACP “to acquire a tap, metering and a decompression station and construction of a lateral pipeline off of (the ACP) that will provide natural gas to (Kyanite),” Wright told supervisors in November.

“Negotiations are ongoing,” said Kyanite Mining Corp. President Guy Dixon. “We were hoping to have this all wrapped up a few months ago, but we’re making some progress and we’ve got another set of discussions that we’re going to have next week and we hope to put this thing to bed before too long.”

When the county learned of Kyanite’s agreement, resulting in the tap and access to the natural gas, the county was approached about the possibility of entering into a MOU with the firm “that would give the county the option to control approximately 200 acres through which this lateral pipeline would go,” Wright said during the November meeting.

“We anticipate some type of resolution to that within the next week to 10 days,” Wright said Monday regarding framework of the MOUs. “So, I’m hoping I’ll be back in front of you in July telling you that those memorandums are in place and ready to be executed.”

The tap to the lateral line from the 42-inch ACP, Wright said in November, would carry enough capacity “to handle the needs of Kyanite, plus maybe three to four companies the size of Kyanite,” he said.

Guy Dixon

Kyanite is the world’s largest producer of the industrial minerals kyanite and mullite, according to its website. Refractories — heat-resistant materials that constitute the linings for high-temperature furnaces and reactors — consume a majority of the minerals.

The county’s access to the tap and control of the 200 acres, along with Kyanite’s access to the natural gas, are contingent on federal regulators approving the project, being led by Dominion. The ACP project calls for a natural gas pipeline to be constructed, starting in West Virginia, spanning Virginia and ending in North Carolina.

“I know it seems like we went stealth on that,” Wright said Monday regarding the discussions about the MOU. “There is a general understanding but as they always say, the devil is in the details. The details have almost got the devil out of it by now.”

The ACP project includes a 42-inch pipeline that would span Buckingham County and cross Cumberland and Prince Edward counties. The project has been hotly contested in Buckingham County.

A poll released in late May indicates a majority of Virginia voters support constructing the pipeline.

In January, county supervisors approved a special use permit for a hotly-contested 53,783-horsepower station, slated to be constructed between Shelton Store and Union Hill roads on Route 56.

“For more than two years, we’ve worked very hard to find opportunities across the region to expand access to natural gas in underserved communities, including Buckingham County,” Dominion spokesman Aaron Ruby said in a previous interview. “We’re pleased that after more than two years of discussions with Buckingham County, Columbia Gas and Kyanite Mining Corp., we’ve reached an agreement in principle that will help facilitate natural gas service to the county. More work remains to be done to finalize the agreement, but we’re very pleased with the progress that has been made.”

According to Wright, the 200 acres would be available to be marketed at a fixed price as a site that would have gas and other amenities. “The county would not have to purchase that site initially. It would only have to invest money for the purchase if it had a real individual, which would leave that land on the tax rolls and it would transfer it to whoever might want it at that time.”

Wright said two non-binding MOUs are needed from the county “so definitive agreements can be made.”

Dixon said in a previous interview that “being able to burn natural gas here at Kyanite is something that the company has looked at various times for the better part of 30-40 years. An access point has always been so far away (it’s) been completely ridiculous from an economic standpoint.”