Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Shale Law in the Spotlight: Recent Pipeline Developments in Pennsylvania and the Eastern United States (Part 1)

Written by Chloe Marie – Research Fellow

Pennsylvania historically has been one of the largest natural gas consumers in the United States and has relied on the interstate pipeline infrastructure from the Gulf Coast to supply its natural gas needs.  With current shale gas production, Pennsylvania is now the second largest natural gas producer in the country, with 2015 production exceeding 4.7 trillion cubic feet according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). In order to transport this increased production from the Marcellus Shale formation into the interstate natural gas transmission systems, Pennsylvania needs to install new pipelines and update its infrastructure. This article will address the recent pipeline developments and expansion in Pennsylvania by providing an overview on the development of the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline, the Northeast Supply Enhancement pipeline, and the Mariner East pipeline system. Our next Shale Law in the Spotlight will focus on additional pipeline projects.

The Atlantic Sunrise pipeline is a 200-mile pipeline expansion project operated by Williams, an Oklahoma-based energy company. The pipeline project proposes to transport Marcellus Shale gas from Northeast Pennsylvania to connect with the existing Transco pipeline mainline in southern Lancaster County. Williams would construct about 183 miles of new pipeline segments, 12 miles of pipeline loops, 2.5 miles of existing pipeline replacement and two new compressor facilities in Pennsylvania. In addition, Williams would add or modify existing facilities in the states of Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

The project started in April 2014 with the pre-filing process and about a year later, in March 2015, Williams filed application with FERC to obtain a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity authorizing the project. In December 2016, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) concluding that “less-than-significant” adverse environmental impacts are to be expected through the implementation of mitigation and additional protective measures. In February 2017, FERC issued the certificate authorizing the pipeline project; thus construction is expected to start in late 2017 with operations expected to commence in mid-2018. Williams, however, has not yet received all of its environmental permits. DEP is still considering issuance of the Erosion and Sediment Control General Permit ESCGP-2 and Chapter 105 Water Obstruction and Encroachment permit along with the Air Quality permits.

The Northeast Supply Enhancement is another pipeline expansion project managed by Williams building 36-mile of new pipeline segments in the New York Bay, in Middlesex County, New Jersey, and in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, as well as a new compressor station in Somerset County, New Jersey. The Northeast Supply Enhancement project will connect to the existing Transco pipeline network and will transport an additional 400 million cubic feet of natural gas per day.

Williams initiated a pre-filing review process with FERC in May 2016 and recently filed an application with FERC for approval to construct the new pipeline infrastructure on March 27, 2017. For FERC, the next step is to conduct an environmental review of the project. Construction is currently scheduled to begin during the summer 2018 with the earliest production start-up targeted for the 2019/2020 winter heating season.

The Mariner East pipeline is a two-pipeline repurposing project operated by Sunoco Logistics Partners L.P. comprising the construction and operation of the Mariner East Phase 1 and Phase 2 pipelines to transport Marcellus and Utica shale plays to the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex in southern Delaware County, Pennsylvania. More specifically, the Mariner East Phase 1 involved the construction of 50-mile of new pipeline segments that run through western Pennsylvania before forming a connection with existing lines to move ethane and propane from western operations to the Marcellus Hook Facility located near Philadelphia and along the Delaware River. Construction of the Mariner East Phase 1 pipeline was completed in late 2014 – propane started shipping in December 2014, and ethane shipments began in the first quarter of 2016.

The Mariner East 2 project would increase the production capacity of the Mariner East existing mainline system with the construction of two separate pipelines running along the Mariner East 1. The two lines would add capacity of approximately 450,000 and 250,000 barrels a day, respectively. The Mariner East 2 project would be about 350 miles in length and would transport natural gas liquids from Ohio through West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Delaware, to the Marcus Hook Facility. Construction began in September 2016 in Ohio, West Virginia and Washington County, Pennsylvania while it began in February 2017 from Washington County to Delaware County, Pennsylvania after DEP approved Chapter 105 and Chapter 102 permit applications for the project on February 13, 2017.

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