ATEX Express Ethane Pipeline Hits Potential Snag in Ohio

Enterprise Products Partners recently announced a 1,230 mile ethane pipeline from Pennsylvania to the Gulf Coast (see this MDN story). Dubbed the ATEX Express (Appalachia to Texas), the proposed pipeline includes building 353 miles of new pipeline through Ohio. But the Ohio stretch of construction has hit a potential snag.

Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) officials say Enterprise must get their approval before building it, but Enterprise disputes the OPSB has the authority to oversee construction the ATEX Express in the state. The dispute hinges on whether the natural gas liquid ethane that will flow through the pipeline is a liquid or a gas. Ethane under pressure is a liquid, but when it hits the air, it turns into a gas.

Federal law grants the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) the power to regulate natural gas pipelines, but not liquid pipelines—at least during the construction phase. After construction is complete, FERC regulates interstate liquid pipelines too. FERC maintains ethane pipelines are liquid pipelines, so they won’t get involved during construction of the ATEX Express.

But the [Ohio] Power Siting Board says that ethane is a liquid only when it’s under pressure. It turns into a gas in the atmosphere…That would mean the board could regulate these lines before they’re built.

The state requires that pipeline builders detail the routes they’d take, in part so that officials can examine and minimize damage to streams, wetlands and natural areas.

A review of a 240-mile pipeline that another Houston-based company, Kinder Morgan, proposed building in [November 2010] shows that line would have crossed 334 streams, including scenic sections of the Kokosing, Maumee and Sandusky rivers.

It would have passed near the Oak Openings Preserve metro park near Toledo, home of the endangered Karner blue butterfly and 180 rare plant species.

Allen Fore, a Kinder Morgan spokesman, said the company decided not to build the line, which would have moved natural-gas liquids from Pennsylvania to refineries in Ontario, Canada.

Fore said Kinder Morgan also questioned the state’s authority but decided not to dispute it.*

Actually, the OPSB rejected the Kinder Morgan proposal last year and Kinder decided not to fight it. There is no word from Enterprise on whether or not they will officially challenge the OPSB’s claim to oversee ATEX Express construction plans.

*The Columbus Dispatch (Feb 26, 2012) – Pipeline jurisdiction at issue