LPG Storage Proposed for NY, a State in a Propane Pinch

Propane barrels? Nope. Wine barrels at a winery around Lake Seneca, a region with a burgeoning viticulture. (image: Louis Q. via flickr.com)

A subsidiary of the major propane retailer Inergy is making moves to store the gas in salt caverns near the town of Reading in Central New York, the Finger Lakes Times reports this week. The plan faces a few regulatory hurdles, though may get a boost from locals reeling from high propane prices and supply disruptions this heating season.

If approved, the new storage site would add 2.1 million barrels of supply to the slim East Coast reserves. At the beginning of January, the inventory for the region — which covers Maine to Florida — was 3.7 million barrels. The Gulf Coast had 23.7 million barrels.

The venture, Finger Lakes LPG Storage, wants to stash the propane in nearby salt caverns, a common storage site for gas and oil. But before the propane goes in the ground, the regional office for the Department of Environmental Conservation has asked for an impact statement examining potential effects on local water, viewshed, and public safety. The DEC is taking public comment through the end of the month.

The 578-acre site sits a couple miles west of Lake Seneca, among the state’s Finger Lakes. If the plan goes forward, the venture will add an intermodal pit stop, for truck and rail shipment. In addition, the caverns are close to the Watkins Glen terminal of the Teppco propane pipeline, a crucial supply artery for the Northeast.

A leak sprang up in the pipeline last August, shutting down all three terminals east of Watkins Glen. Repair work has stretched into the new year, taking a toll on dealers and customers’ wallets. The average price for a gallon of propane has gone up 56-cents in New York this heating season, according to federal numbers.

The vacant cavern space is the result of past salt mining.

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