FERC Approves $1.8B Leach & Rayne XPress Pipeline Projects

Yesterday the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) voted to approve and issue a certificate to Columbia Pipeine’s Leach XPress and Rayne XPress pipeline projects. This is fantastic news for the Marcellus/Utica region. MDN has covered these projects from their beginning. In August 2014 Columbia, then a subsidiary of Nisource, committed to building the two projects that will flow Marcellus/Utica gas to the Gulf Coast (see Columbia Gas: $1.75B for 2 Projects to Send Marcellus Gas to Gulf). The Leach XPress project involves construction of approximately 160 miles of natural gas pipeline and compression facilities in southeastern Ohio and West Virginia’s northern panhandle, flowing 1.5 billion cubic feet (Bcf) of gas all the way to Leach, Kentucky (hence the name). Rayne XPress works hand in glove with Leach. There is an existing natgas pipeline from Leach, KY all the way to the Louisiana Gulf Coast. That pipeline is called the Rayne, for Rayne, LA. The Rayne Xpress project will beef up the Rayne pipeline with new compressor stations to add an additional 1 Bcf per day of capacity–Marcellus and Utica Shale gas capacity that will flow to the Gulf Coast. It wouldn’t make sense to approve one without the other, and yesterday FERC approved both…
Continue reading

Northeastern PA Counties Explore Alliance to Pass Royalty Reform

One of the issues that isn’t going away is the demand by landowners in some Pennsylvania counties, like Bradford, for lawmakers in the state to pass a bill that guarantees them what they believe they are already guaranteed–a 12.5% minimum royalty, based on a 1979 law that states they should get such a royalty. We’ve extensively covered what we call a civil war between two parties who are otherwise friendly toward each other–landowners and shale drillers. Last year the issue came to a head with House Bill (HB) 1391 (see our list of stories here). In a nutshell, landowners say Chesapeake Energy and some other drillers are taking post-production deductions out of landowners’ royalty checks, resulting in royalty payments far below 12.5%. In some cases landowners are receiving bills for money owed to the driller–after the driller pulled the gas out of the ground! Who in their right minds leases land for drilling so they can PAY the driller! It is an outrage and landowners want it stopped. Drillers, on the other hand, say you can’t just change contracts after they’ve been signed, punishing the entire industry for the bad actions of a few. Drillers say the proper response is for landowners to sue the bad apples. Frankly, it’s all a mess. The new news is that landowners from Bradford and several other northeastern PA counties, tired of being outmaneuvered by drillers, are actively talking about forming an alliance to try and garner enough support in Harrisburg to get a bill like HB 1391 passed this year…
Continue reading

Major CNG Virtual Pipeline Coming to Susquehanna County, PA

MDN has had an eye on a trend we find exciting–“virtual pipelines”–by which we mean facilities that are located along a pipeline that compress the gas (CNG, or compressed natural gas), load it onto tanker trucks, and then distribute that gas to businesses that are not fortunate enough to be located near a natgas pipeline. With irrational opposition to pipelines seemingly rampant, virtual pipelines are a good alternative. We were first alerted to this trend when International Paper’s Ticonderoga mill in northern New York, near the Vermont border, opted for a virtual pipeline from NG Advantage, back in 2015 (see NY Paper Plant Opts for “Virtual” NatGas Pipeline Over Real One). NG Advantage has established a presence throughout New England, most recently adding Maine to their delivery options (see NG Advantage’s “Virtual” NatGas Pipeline to Maine Begins Flowing). A Camp Hill, PA-based company, Compass Natural Gas Partners, recently got into the virtual pipeline business in Lycoming County, PA (see Look Ma, No Pipeline! Lycoming County Co. Begins CNG Shipments). Yesterday PA Gov. Wolf issued a press release to say another company is starting up a virtual pipeline–this time in Susquehanna County, PA (MDN’s backyard). Xpress Natural Gas (XNG) will spend $18.6 million to build a facility that will employ nearly 90 people and load up to 100 tanker trucks a day for deliveries to customers across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states…
Continue reading

Antis Worried Trump Will Stop Delaware River Basin Conservation Act

The (for now) taxpayer funded PBS StateImpact Pennsylvania is so “in the tank” and biased for radical environmentalism, they are a reliable mouthpiece for Big Green. Want to know what Big Green thinks? Just read StateImpact. Which is how we know Big Green is now very worried that the incoming Trump Administration will stop implementation of the ill-conceived Delaware River Basin Conservation Act. We wrote about the Act when it was still just a bill (see New Bill Aims to Keep Drilling/Pipelines Out of Dela. River Basin). The Act, which was passed by a spineless Republican Congress in December, vests the already out-of-control U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) with power and money to “identify and implement conservation activities” in the Delaware River Basin. The tip-off that it’s anti-drilling is that it was pushed and promoted by the odious William Penn Foundation as well as the Delaware River Basin Commission. USFWS is an Executive Branch (i.e. now Trump Administration) agency, so Trump can decide to drag his heels on implementing this disastrous legislation. Hey libs, how does it feel to be out of power? The thought that Trump will deny them their precious money to make mischief has them worried, as evidenced by the propagandists at StateImpact
Continue reading

Heinz Endowments Gives Prof $48K to Find Frack Water Contamination

Make no mistake. When the Heinz Endowments, a left-leaning, big-moneyed nonprofit invests its money via grants into programs that have anything to do with shale drilling, it is for one purpose and one purpose only: to smear the reputation of fracking and to make oil and gas look bad. They fund all sorts of “research” efforts that mysteriously always come to the same conclusion: fracking is bad. Funny how that works. So it was with interest we noted they’ve purchased for themselves another academic researcher rather cheaply–just $48,000–with a mission to test water wells near fracking sites. The aim? To prove that fracking contaminates water wells. Which is the claim made by groups like Heinz for years–and has never been proven. Millions of wells fracked, with a small number where methane has migrated into those wells (a fixable condition). NEVER has there been chemical transmission from fracking into groundwater wells. But that doesn’t stop Heinz from trying to manufacture evidence. Here’s their latest effort…
Continue reading

More on PA DEP’s Onerous New Methane Capture Regs

In December, the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) unveiled new regulations to clamp down on methane emissions and other other air pollution that allegedly comes from shale drilling sites (see PA DEP Releases New Regs re Methane & Air Pollution at Drill Sites). The onerous new regulations, not in effect yet, are prompted by bullying from the federal Environmental Protection Agency, an agency which is about to get gutted (see Master Stroke: Trump Selects OK AG Pruitt to Lead EPA). That hasn’t stopped Gov. Wolf’s DEP from plowing forward with new rules (copies here). We spotted an Associated Press article that highlights some of the aspects of the proposed new methane capture rules…
Continue reading

PA DEP Rejects Revisions to Regs re Drilling Near Coal Mines

Here’s a story we admittedly don’t know much about, a story that kind of came out of left field. It may affect some shale drillers in southwest PA. Sometimes drillers want to lease and drill under coal mines. Since coal mines sink large holes in the ground, there are existing guidelines in place for how closely an oil/gas well can be drilled on or under a coal mine–guidelines put in place in 1957. As a result of legislation passed in 2011 called Act 2, a review was conducted to see if the standards for oil/gas drilling near coal mines might be modified–we’re assuming “relaxed,” allowing such drilling to happen in conditions not currently allowed. A column of rock called a pillar needs to be of a certain size/width in order for drilling to take place. An independent study to review the size of pillars, called “Gas Well Pillar Study Update, PO 4300311202 and 4300400813,” was completed in March 2016. The PA Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) recently completed its own review of that study (copy of the DEP review below) and has rejected changing existing 1957 standards for pillar dimensions. Yeah, kind of technical. Short version: DEP is keeping super-strict standards in place claiming it’s safer for coal miners, limiting options for shale drilling under some coal mines…
Continue reading

Buyer of FirstEnergy’s PA NatGas Power Plants Revealed

FirstEnergy, based in Akron, OH, is one of the nation’s largest investor-owned electric systems, serving customers in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, West Virginia, Maryland and New York. FirstEnergy owns a variety of regulated and non-regulated power generation plants. In November the company announced it wants to sell six power generating plants in PA, four of them natural gas-fired plants (see FirstEnergy Selling 4 NatGas-Fired Electric Plants in PA). The plants being sold are non-regulated–part of FirstEnergy’s strategy to become a 100% “regulated” utility in the next 18 months. In December FirstEnergy announced they found a buyer willing to pay $885 million for the four natgas plants in PA (see FirstEnergy Finds Buyer for 4 PA NatGas-Fired Power Plants). However, the buyer’s identity remained a secret–until now. LS Power Equity Partners III LP, a New York-based power developer, is the buyer of the four natgas-fired electric plants…
Continue reading

Pittsburgh Energy Lawyers Jump Ship from NRF to Blank Rome

In the past MDN has highlighted the great work done by the Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF) law firm, most recently just last month (see Updated List of Proposed Laws in PA-OH-WV Affecting Marcellus/Utica). Researchers at the law firm issue a quarterly legislative action update looking at bills and laws previously voted on, and new bills/laws introduced, affecting the oil and gas industry in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. Very impressive. So we were saddened to learn that Norton Rose Fulbright is closing its Marcellus/Utica office in Pittsburgh, with plans to cover the region from its other offices (see Law Firm Norton Rose Fulbright Closing Pittsburgh Marcellus Office). They announced two remaining attorneys in the Pittsburgh office–Amy Barrette and Jeremy Mercer–will relocate to NRF’s Washington, DC office. Not so fast! Yesterday another large energy law firm in Pittsburgh, Blank Rome, announced Barrette and Mercer are joining their firm instead, and staying put in Pittsburgh…
Continue reading

OH NatGas Utility Sells Itself to Energy Investment Firm

A Cleveland, OH-based natural gas utility company, Gas Natural Inc., has sold itself to investment firm First Reserve Energy. Gas Natural sells 21 billion cubic feet (Bcf) of natural gas to roughly 68,600 customers through regulated utilities operating in Montana, Ohio, Maine and North Carolina. Gas Natural’s other operations include an intrastate pipeline, natural gas production and natural gas marketing. First Reserve Energy is an investment firm focused solely on investing in (and buying) energy companies. Shareholders for Gas Natural voted at the end of December to approve the buyout/merger…
Continue reading

Marcellus & Utica Shale Story Links: Fri, Jan 20, 2017

The “best of the rest” – stories that caught MDN’s eye that you may be interested in reading. In today’s lineup: Range Resources cleaning up mess along Route 136; natgas industry expects major growth in PA; antis arrested near Valero refinery in Tennessee; US LNG exports continue to break records; US shale & OPEC keep spiking the ball at the 1 yardline; Rick Perry perfect for Sec Energy; Kinder Morgan investigated by FERC for overcharging; and more!
Continue reading