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DuPont pipeline removal delayed for safety reasons

A project to remove four 1,000-foot-long pipelines from a hillside overlooking DuPont's plant in Belle has been delayed after plant officials decided to find a safer way to remove the portion of the line closest to the top of the hill.

The project is about two-thirds complete, but "the upper 500 (feet) of pipeline remains firmly anchored on land that is severely sloped," Plant Manager Jim O'Connor said in a statement.

Originally, the plan was to remove the entire pipeline using a trackhoe type excavator, but in light of the steep slope of the hill, DuPont officials are analyzing alternative methods of removal.

"Our primary consideration has always been the safety of our workers and the public and we will move the project forward when we can do so with a reconfigured design and project safety operating procedures," O'Connor said.

O'Connor expects work will be complete by the end of the year. The project was initially scheduled for completion in August.

The pipeline was opened in 1930 as a way to save energy during the production of ammonia, the Daily Mail reported in April.

Water was sent down the hillside, where distance and gravity combined to raise the water pressure from about 100 pounds per square inch to about 450 pounds per square inch.

The water then was used in the ammonia manufacturing process to de-gas the material. Momentum from the water's journey down the hill then forced it back up the incline, where it was de-gassed.

The water picked up dissolved gases produced from the manufacturing process, he said. The water was recycled from the bottom of the hill to the top, with more being siphoned from the Kanawha River when the liquid began to evaporate.

The process of using the hill to build momentum was "quite the engineering accomplishment," even by today's standards, because it resulted in a 70 percent energy savings in the ammonia manufacturing process, O'Connor said previously.

The pipeline was shut down in the 1950s and though the plant still uses ammonia, the chemical is shipped in from facilities along the Gulf Coast.

The metal from the pipeline and an adjoining rail line will be recycled. The metal would not have ammonia residue due to being inactive since the 1950s.

In April, DuPont workers constructed a safety barrier at the bottom of the hill to prevent any rocks or debris from falling onto U.S. 60, which runs between the pipeline and the DuPont plant. The safety barrier will be removed when work is complete.

Contact writer Matt Murphy at or 304-348-4817.



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