NTSB Faults NiSource/Columbia for WV Pipeline Explosion in 2012

accident waiting to happenOn December 11, 2012, a portion of the Columbia Gas Transmission pipeline (owned by Nisource) exploded near Sissonville, WV, 10 miles north of Charleston. The resulting fire burned for more than an hour and shut down a portion of nearby Interstate 77 for days (see Columbia NatGas Pipeline Explodes Near Charleston, WV). It’s been a long time coming, but on Monday the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), that did a full investigation of the explosion, turned in their final report. It was pretty damning for NiSource/Columbia. The conclusions of the investigators are that a) the pipe had corroded in that section–a long time ago, and b) Columbia hadn’t inspected that section of pipeline since (unbelievably) 1988. In other words, it was an accident waiting to happen.

Below we have the press release from the NTSB with their high level findings, then the full 32-page report released Monday, and finally, the lame response issued by NiSource/Columbia “thanking” the NTSB for just ripping them a new one…
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April EIA DPR: Marcellus Continues Reign as King of the Shale

A periodic check-in of our favorite Energy Information Administration report, the Drilling Productivity Report (DPR), shows the Marcellus Shale continues to be the United States’ (and world’s!) leading shale play when it comes to production of natural gas. The April DPR, released two days ago, shows the Marcellus is forecast to increase production by an average 288 million cubic feet per day (Mmcf/d) in April over March. The increase, as always, comes from a mix of newly drilled wells coming online and previously drilled wells.

Below we have analysis of the latest numbers, along with the full DPR for April, yesterday’s EIA Today in Energy update (which talks about the increasing efficiency of new wells in the Marcellus), and screen shots of two charts on the DPR home page, charts they don’t include in the PDF (for whatever reason, but should be)…
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Noble Energy’s Huge Vote of Confidence in the Marcellus

Noble Energy has big plans for the Marcellus. Yesterday the company confirmed they will be new tenants in a huge new office building going up in the Southpointe business park near Pittsburgh. The new building being built by Horizon Properties will be 208,000 square feet, of which Noble is leasing 138,000 square feet. Noble’s president & CEO David Stover says the Marcellus is “the premiere gas play in the United States,” and the Marcellus figures prominently in Noble’s future plans.

Noble plans to employ 200 people in the new facility by the end of this year, and eventually–400-450 people at the facility. PA welcomes Noble to the Marcellus!…
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MDN’s Guide to New TENORM Rules for OH Utica Drillers

Last year, the Ohio state legislature passed an omnibus “everything but the kitchen sink is in there” bill (HB59) that covered, among other things, a requirement that oil and gas drillers need to test drilling waste for TENORM–or Technologically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material. Drillers need to test for TENORM (or naturally occurring radioactivity) in wastewater and drill cuttings under certain conditions, according to the legislation. MDN tracked down House Bill 59 and read it. We include the relevant section from the massive 699-page law below.

It appears to MDN’s eye that if OH shale drillers recycle the waste and re-use it on site (in the case of fluids), there is no need to test. Likewise, if they cart fluids to another nearby drill site for re-use, no need to test. If they dispose of it via a Class II injection well–no need to test. That covers about all of the ways Utica drillers handle liquid waste. It seems to us the only real requirement will be to test drill cuttings (leftover rock and dirt) for radioactivity before disposing of them in landfills. The reason this is news now is because the Ohio Dept. of Health was charged with drafting guidelines for how such materials should be sampled and analyzed to determine whether TENORM levels are high enough to warrant special treatment. The DOH recently released those guidelines, which OH drillers will now need to pay attention to when it comes to testing at the drill site…
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Impact of WV’s New Chemical Tank Law on Marcellus Drillers

An important update on the new rules coming to West Virginia drillers impacting how they use above ground chemical storage tanks. As MDN previously reported, the WV legislature passed SB373 in the closing hours of the 2014 legislative session (see Fate of 3 WV Laws that Impact Marcellus/Utica Drilling). That bill was in response to a chemical leak that affected the drinking water for 300,000 WV residents. Even though the leak was not related to oil and gas drilling (it was related to coal mining), the new rules governing above ground storage tanks for chemicals affect a number of industries, including the Marcellus Shale drilling industry.

Although the final language of the bill has yet to be set in stone and signed into law, enough of it is now known that it can be analyzed. The bright legal beagles at the energy law firm of Lewis Glasser Casey & Rollins, PLLC have done just that. Here is how the newly minted SB373, once signed into law, will impact WV’s oil and gas industry:
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Investment Firm Backs 3 Hotels, in Hunt for Restaurants in Utica

Energy investment firm Drill Capital is not only in the process of building one hotel in the Utica Shale with plans on the boards to build two more (all in eastern Ohio), the company also wants to lure a restaurant chain to the Utica too. You don’t put up investors’ money to build hotels and restaurant in rural locations unless you firmly believe the business will be there for years to come. That’s precisely what Drilling Capital’s young founder and managing partner, Farid Guindo, believes…
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Chevron CEO Says Marcellus Drilling Scaled Back Due to Low Price

When the annual analyst teleconference for a big oil company is forecast to go 2.5-3 hours long, you know the news will not be good. It doesn’t take that long unless you have explain and re-explain yourself multiple times. Although MDN did not participate in yesterday’s annual analyst call for Chevron, by all accounts, the news was negative and the company’s stock ticked down by the end of the day by $1.33 per share (1.1%).

Chevron is a huge company–the second largest oil company in the United States based on market capitalization. The only thing MDN was interested in, aside from any mentions about the recent well fire in Greene County, PA (no mentions of the well fire in the call that we could find), is, What is Chevron up to in the Marcellus? The answer we got from looking at the slides and reading media reports of yesterday’s call is: not much. Chevron Chairman and CEO John Watson said “some” of the drilling in the PA Marcellus has been curtailed because of the low commodity price of natural gas. MDN’s Marcellus and Utica Shale Databook show Chevron’s permitting activity picked up a bit toward the end of 2013. It seems from Watson’s comments that they will continue to actively drill in the Marcellus in 2014, but likely not at the same levels seen in 2012 and 2013…
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