LUMBERTON — Billie Snowten says a lot of people are stopping and asking him about the mountain of steel pipes that has risen from the ground on property located on Kenric Drive next to the Robeson County Public Schools transportation garage, near U.S. 74 and Interstate 95.
“One man asked me if we were building a mall here,” said Snowten, a worker at the pipe storage yard.
The pipes, which are are 80 feet long and weigh about 5,000 pounds each, are being used in the construction of a Piedmont Natural Gas pipeline that is running approximately 133 miles from the Charlotte area to a power generating facility being built at the existing Sutton generating plant near Wilmington. In addition to constructing the pipeline, Piedmont will install 23,000 horse power of compression facilities to serve the new 620-megawatt cycle Sutton plant, said David Trusty, Piedmont’s managing director of public relations.
According to a statement issued in April 2010, Piedmont’s capital investment in the pipeline and compression facilities is estimated at $217 million. Of the total investment, the company anticipates it will invest $60 million in Robeson County, which will provide property tax revenue to local governments and several fire districts along the route.
“The capacity from the new line will be used to spur growth along the way, as well as provide the natural gas to fuel the turbines of the electrical generating plant,” Trusty said.
Greg Cummings, Robeson County’s industrial developer, said that the pipeline will have a positive effect on Robeson County’s tax base for “years to come.”
“The size of that line will have a major impact for industries that are large gas users,” Cummings said. “With that line, we (county) will be better able to meet their needs … . It will be one of the things we can show an industry thinking about locating in the county.”
Piedmont Natural Gas paid Robeson County $138,237 in property taxes this year based on a property valuation of about $18 million, according to Cindy Lowry, the county’s tax administrator.
Greg Wood, a public utilities analyst with the state Revenue Department, said complicated formulas would be used to determine how much of the $60 million in new infrastructure would be taxable, but said there would be a “significant increase” in properties taxes that Piedmont pays to the county and affected municipalities.
Trusty said that as far as he is aware, the new pipeline — at 133 miles in length — is the longest his company has constructed.
Snowten said when the staging area in Lumberton reaches capacity, it will contain about 40 miles of pipe. He said that construction of the line in Robeson County has not yet begun, and that the pipes stored at the Kenric Drive site will not be used until about June.
Snowten said that there are currently about 18 employees, including laborers, truck drivers and equipment operators working at the Lumberton site. When construction of the line gets under way, he estimates there will be a total of about 200 workers employed in the entire construction project.
Piedmont expectes the new pipeline and compression facilities to be operating in June of 2013.
Reach staff writer Bob Shiles at 910-272-6117 or firstname.lastname@example.org