A conditional use zoning request by Buckeye Transfer LLC to convert part of the former National Refractories site to a truck-to-rail transfer facility was approved by the board of zoning appeals with a 4-0 vote on Tuesday.
The meeting drew 18 people and two board members, John Gross and Cec Jones, were excused from voting.
Gross has a business relationship with the property owner on the petition while Jones is a member of the Columbiana Area Chamber of Commerce which backed the request in writing.
The area, which includes three parcels, is zoned light industrial (I-1) and adjoins Esterly, Wisler and Cherry Fork Roads.
Last July, the Columbiana County Port Authority turned the National Refractories site over to Buckeye Transfer Realty. Its owner and president, Jerry Stoneburner, applied for the conditional use.
The property is in the Crestview School District.
Buckey requested the conditional use on behalf of Denver-based Centennial Energy LLC, and spokesperson Chris Woods said not to expect much activity on the 95-acre site until next spring.
The site which was chosen because of its proximity to an interstate highway with a Norfolk Southern railroad spur. It will transfer crude oil and condensate, from active oil and gas wells to rail tankers staged on the spur.
Last month, Township Trustee Barry Miner said, "There's a rail yard and four-lane highway, it's perfect for oil and natural gas and with the site out there ... this business is here to support oil and gas. I knew it would be prime for development."
Woods said the transfer station will eventually handle 16-18 trucks per day by filling five railroad tankers, noting it takes about 45 minutes to unload a truck.
Trucks will enter and leave the site from Esterly Drive after moving through a trans-loading area where trained employees will transfer the product to waiting rail tankers.
The railcars will remain on the spur until they are picked up by the next available train, when more empty rail tankers will arrive.
Lisa Wallace, general counsel for Centennial Energy, hinted at further development "and other companies" that might want to take advantage of the opportunities near the property.
She said pipe and sand could be stored nearby "because of the rail spur."
Woods answered a number of questions from residents dealing with safety, smell, sight lines and road maintenance. Board member Mark Mellinger asked about Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plans.
Woods was clear that no oil or gas will be stored on the site.
"We ship it immediately," he said and board member Ralph Bertanzetti asked where it went.
Woods said to Canton, explaining as the wells are developed excess barrels or "stressed barrels" will need to be removed. When the wells are running the oil and gas needs to be removed.
He said once the pipelines are in place "we'll move out."
Bertanzetti asked, "When the pipelines are put in, you guys go away?"
Woods responded, "Pretty much. It's extremely costly to transfer by truck. You can't shut the wells in, you have to move the oil."
Bertanzetti asked about double-hulled trucks and railcars and Woods said the Federal Railroad Administration handles railcars and the trucks fall under Department of Transportation regulations.
He said the tankers are single-skinned, according to DOT rules.
One guest came out in favor of the conditional use, saying, "These guys are part of it until we get the pipeline built."
A couple who reside on Cherry Fork Road asked about noise and visuals from their property and Woods said, "There's no noise associated with it. There's very little impact."
He added the transfer is made in a closed-loop system and there is "never an open hose or valve." The company must also obtain an air quality permit.
Woods also advised they have to check with the fire department regarding its capabilities but later in the meeting, Miner said he spoke with them and there is nothing they can't respond to.
Resident Bill Esterly wondered about the smell and Woods said, "You'll smell nothing ... zero smell."
The permit application referred to the closed-loop process "so no vapors or fumes will be produced from the process and it will not impact area storm water and no flammable liquid will be stored on site.
The application said the product is not under a "great deal of pressure, but Centennial does take additional safety precautions."
In response to a question from Esterly, Woods said the company had no legal action against it that "I'm aware of."
Columbiana Area Chamber of Commerce President Randall D. Hart wrote Zoning Officer Kymberly Seabolt supporting the conditional use saying the possibility of 15 to 20 well-paying jobs exists.
Woods said the gas and oil wells will create a tremendous amount of jobs in the area.
"You'll see a lot of trucks, that impact is coming ... they (the companies) do a lot of community work. The big boys do a lot of community work."
For more information visit: www.highsierraenergy.com/centennial.
Larry Shields can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org