WV Supreme Court to Rehear EQT Post Production Royalty Case, Maybe

More twists and turns to report with respect to an issue we previously reported with the potential to impact every mineral rights owner and driller in West Virginia. In December MDN reported on the huge West Virginia Supreme Court decision against driller EQT that disallows EQT from deducting post-production expenses from royalty checks, even with signed contracts in place (see WV Supreme Court Rules EQT Can’t Deduct P-P Costs from Royalties). The justices, in their ruling, said that drillers can “not deduct from that (royalty) amount any expenses that have been incurred in gathering, transporting or treating the oil or gas after it has been initially extracted, any sums attributable to a loss or beneficial use of volume beyond that initially measured or any other costs that may be characterized as post-production.” A really big deal. Then in February, with a brand new justice on the bench, the WV Supreme Court agreed to rehear the case after an appeal filed by EQT–a rare and unusual step (see EQT Catches Big Break in WV Supreme Court re Royalty Deductions). A member of the West Virginians for Property Rights group said members are “pretty nervous about this.” Those who already won the case say the high court’s decision to rehear is tantamount to playing the fourth quarter of a playoff game all over again–fundamentally unfair. The court will rehear the case next Tuesday–IF they don’t grant a motion to dismiss the rehearing. The mineral rights owners involved filed the motion saying the newest justice who just came on the bench in January should not have voted to rehear a case she previously didn’t hear…
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NJ DEP Temporarily Rejects PennEast Request for Wetland Permits

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) has temporarily rejected PennEast Pipeline’s Freshwater Wetlands Individual Permit and Water Quality Certificate application, submitted April 6. NJDEP said in their response that PennEast has not provided enough detail about the project–leaving out key pieces of information for two-thirds of the pipeline’s 37-mile trek through NJ. NJDEP says they want the application refiled within 30 days, and if PennEast doesn’t give them what they want within 60 days, the DEP will consider the application “withdrawn.” The news from NJ comes on the heels of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also telling PennEast they need more information too. Radicalized antis are rejoicing and their mouthpieces in mainstream media are painting this as a grim development for PennEast–perhaps the death rattle has begun. PennEast, on the other hand, is treating the news as a minor bump in the road–the application has just a “few outstanding items” that PennEast needs to track down and provide to the DEP, and then all will be just fine. We suppose the next 30-60 days will tell the tale…
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WV Driller Northeast Natural Energy Gets $300M Investment

Northeast Natural Energy (NNE) is a midsize driller headquartered in Morgantown, WV. NNE owns 49,000 net acres of leases “in the heart of the Marcellus Fairway,” and operates 27 Marcellus wells and over 100 conventional oil and gas wells. In 2011 NNE fought Morgantown for the right to drill a couple of wells just outside the city limits (see our stories here). NNE won that fight. Yesterday two investment firms–Trioloma EIG Energy Income Fund and EIG Global Energy Partners–announced they have joined forces to infuse $300 million into NNE. Looks like a very active drilling program is just ahead for the WV driller…
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MarkWest Spending $300M+ This Year in WV Expansion Projects

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MarkWest Energy, formerly a standalone company but bought out by MPLX (i.e. Marathon Petroleum) in December 2015, continues its aggressive expansion in the Marcellus/Utica. Particularly in West Virginia. MarkWest owns a number of processing plants in the Mountain State. This year, the company will spend $200 million to expand and upgrade its facilities in Doddridge County (Sherwood facility) to process natural gas and separate out ethane, and $110 million to expand and upgrade facilities in Marshall County (Majorsville facility) to process ethane. Folks, that’s nearly one-third of a BILLION dollars–in just two counties. Talk about economic stimulus! Last year MarkWest spent $120 million on upgrades in Wetzel County. MarkWest’s WV customers include: Antero, EQT, Southwestern, CNX, Chevron, Range Resources, and Eureka Hunter. Here’s more details on what to expect from the mighty MarkWest in WV this year…
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Rover Pipeline Paying $2.3M for Knocking Down Historic OH House

On Feb. 3, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) gave its final approval to Energy Transfer’s Rover Pipeline project–a $3.7 billion, 711-mile Marcellus/Utica natural gas pipeline that will run from PA, WV and eastern OH through OH into Michigan and eventually into Canada (see ET Rover Pipeline Gets Final Approval by FERC). Normally when FERC approves such a project, they issue a “blanket certificate” that allows the pipeline company to move forward with construction without getting “Mother May I?” permission for every step along the way. But FERC denied ET a blanket certificate for Rover. Why? Because Rover demolished a house that was under consideration for a national registry of historic homes, without first telling FERC (see Rover Pipeline in Hot Water Over Demolishing Historic House in OH). In May 2015, Rover purchased a house in Carroll County, OH, located near where the pipeline, and a compressor station for that pipeline, is due to run. Rover bought the house to use for offices for several Rover affiliate companies. After buying it, Rover determined the house was “ill-suited for its intended purpose” and decided to demolish it. Problem was/is, that house was under consideration to be added to the National Register of Historic Places. The house was not yet on the list of Historic Places, but was on a list of properties under consideration. FERC says Rover should have reported their decision to demolish the house, which has Rover in hot water with FERC and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. That’s the last we had heard about the “historic” house–until we spotted an article that makes reference to a deal Rover agreed to, to pay out $2.3 million “to a fund administered by the Ohio History Connection Foundation and the State Historic Preservation Office. A total of $1 million is for preservation work in the 18 counties crossed by the pipeline. The rest of the money will be used for projects across the state.” So Rover didn’t pay a fine. Instead, they paid hush money. A shakedown, with money going to a PRIVATE nonprofit organization…
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NETL Researchers Find Tiny Earthquakes Help Marcellus Production

Broadband seismometer used for surface seismic monitoring

We hesitated to use the headline that we did, given the way virulent anti-drillers bastardize the issue of fracking and earthquakes. But we used it to make a point. Quick history: The headline-grabbing “fracking causes swarms of earthquakes” in places like Oklahoma is about frack wastewater that is injected in special saltwater injection wells, deep below the surface. There are, literally, hundreds of thousands of such wells across the country. Unfortunately, when such a well is located directly over or very close to an underground fault (large crack), the fluid getting injected acts like grease, allowing rock layers to slip and slide–in some cases causing low level earthquakes–typically earthquakes under 2.0 on the Richter scale (can’t be felt on the surface). Is fracking itself ever the cause? Statistically, no. But it has been documented to happen in a handful of cases–under 10 times in the entire world, out of millions of fracked wells. And again, it only happened because of fracking directly over an underground fault. However, any time you explode charges underground, which is what fracking is, if you have equipment sensitive enough, you can detect it. Is that an “earthquake”? We’d say no. Perhaps it is considered an “earthquake” according to a technical definition, but those extremely low vibrations are brief–typically 30-60 seconds–and they never cause any kind of harm on the surface. In fact, the vibrations can’t be felt at the surface. So our headline referring to “tiny earthquakes” is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, a way to tweak antis. Researchers at the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) have discovered that those vibrations from fracking–what they call “low frequency tremors”–can be measured and used to figure out how to get more production out of Marcellus Shale wells in PA and WV…
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Michigan AG Schuette Wishy-Washy on Support of NEXUS Pipeline

Bill Schuette

NOTE: MDN corrected the story below. In a previous version we had confused Rover with NEXUS. We regret the mistake. However, the gist of our story was/is correct–that Schuette appears to support NEXUS, but has also filed comments against it with the MPSC.

Last fall MDN speculated Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s (Republican) keynote speech at the Michigan Oil and Gas Association’s Annual Meeting was likely an effort to repair the damage he had done to his reputation in aggressively attempting to shake down Chesapeake Energy over supposed lease collusion (see Michigan Succeeds in Shaking Down Chesapeake for Measly $25M). During his speech, Schuette gave his full support to the NEXUS Pipeline project (see Michigan AG Lends His Full Support to NEXUS Pipeline). Yet Schuette is also on record opposing a key request needed by one of the partners to build the pipeline. One of the partners in NEXUS is DTE Energy. DTE’s electric customers will benefit from NEXUS (cheaper natural gas to power electric plants, giving them cheaper electricity), so DTE Electric will charge those customers a small fee in their electric bill to help build the project. Schuette, at the prompting of Michigan Environmental Council and the Sierra Club, filed a brief with the Michigan Public Service Commission opposing DTE Electric’s plan to begin assessing the charge this year, in 2017. Why? Schuette says with the delays at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) due to lack of a quorum, there’s no way NEXUS will go online this year. NEXUS disagrees and maintains it will be online by November. So essentially Schuette took a swipe at NEXUS, after he had lauded them last fall. And what caused us to investigate and write about all of this is because two days ago MDN (and presumably other media outlets) got a brief statement from Schuette’s office, once again praising and expressing support for the project, admitting it “will be moving forward.” Whaaaat? He loves it, then he sides with antis against at it, then he loves it again. What’s going on?…
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23 Drillers Sign Up to Complete Against M-U via TransCanada Pipe

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TransCanada, one of Canada’s leading midstream/pipeline companies, cooked up a deal last year to pipe natural gas from Canada’s West Coast to the East Coast in order to fend off cheap supplies of Marcellus/Utica gas that will flow into Canada when/if the NEXUS and Rover pipelines get built (see TransCanada Pipe Drops Price 42% to Compete with Marcellus/Utica). TransCanada dropped their pipeline price to lure drillers by (theoretically) making it less expensive to get gas from Western Canada, some 2,400 miles away, than from the Marcellus, just 400 miles away. In October, TransCanada launched an open season to lock up customers for the new, lower-priced option. The open season was a bust because TransCanada insists on a 10-year commitment (see TransCanada Plan to Lowball M-U Gas Using Canada Pipeline a Bust). TransCanada rejiggered the terms being offered and reopened the open season. This time it worked (see TransCanada Says Plan to Lowball M-U Gas Worked, Shippers Sign Up). Thanks to a filing TransCanada has made with the Canadian National Energy Board (NEB), we now know who has signed up to use the lowball service from Canada’s West Coast to Ontario. Some 23 Canadian drillers, with some big names in the list, are waiting to use the service. TransCanada is begging/pleading/cajoling the NEB to issue a final approval–so TransCanada and these drillers can preemtively strike a blow at the cheap natgas that will come to the Dawn Hub in Ontario once Rover and NEXUS are built. Below is the list of 23 that plant to go head to head with cheap M-U gas…
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Webinar: Will New Gas-Fired Power Plants Solve the M-U Gas Glut?

MDN is excited to partner with NGI to present a VERY important webinar on Thursday, May 4th: “Super Power: Will New Gas-Fired Plants Solve the Appalachian Gas Glut?” NGI has assembled an all-star cast of speakers to discuss where natural gas-fired plants fit into the “generation stack,” with specific emphasis on the PJM Interconnection markets in the Marcellus/Utica. PJM is a regional transmission organization (RTO) coordinating the movement of wholesale electricity in all or parts of 13 states and the District of Columbia (including PA, OH and WV). PJM, like other RTOs, faces challenges with ensuring there will always be enough electricity produced to meet demand. Over the past several years coal-fired electric generating plants have been closing. Natural gas, and in a much smaller sense renewables (wind and solar) have taken up the slack. Wind and solar are notoriously unreliable. The wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine. But natural gas needs pipelines to get it to the plants. So what’s the scoop with natgas electric generation in our neck of the woods? How important are new power plants to the capacity-constrained Marcellus/Utica? Jump on this free 1-hour webinar to find out…
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ENSERVCO Starting Up Water Transfer Service in Marcellus

ENSERVCO is an oilfield services company headquartered in Denver, CO. ENSERVCO’s services include: hot oiling, acidizing, frac water heating, water transfer, bacteria and scaling treatment, water hauling and oilfield support equipment rental. The company says it serves customers in various shale basins across the country, and in states including Colorado, Kansas, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, Wyoming and West Virginia. So yeah, they have customers in the Marcellus/Utica. Yesterday ENSERVCO issued an update for first quarter 2017–preliminary financials and an operational update. The thing that caught our eye was this statement: “We’re also moving forward with plans to begin offering water transfer in the Marcellus Shale, where we’re hiring staff and gearing up our marketing plans.” We’re not quite sure what they mean. Yet another trucking outfit with a parade of tankers trundling down the road (like we saw last weekend when visiting Hop Bottom, PA, in Susquehanna County). Or water pipelines? Or both?…
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OH & PA NatGas Production Increased More Than Other States in ’16

Would it surprise you to learn that Pennsylvania and Ohio had the largest increase in natural gas production in 2016–larger than any other natgas-producing states? If you read MDN regularly, perhaps not. Old news. However, it may surprise you to learn that from 2012 to 2016, 85% of the growth in our country’s enormous natural gas output came from the Marcellus/Utica. Yeah, 85%. That’s huge. More old news: Pennsylvania passed Louisiana back in 2013 to become the second highest-producing natgas state in the country. More new news: Last year, in 2016, Ohio passed West Virginia to become the seventh highest producing natgas state in the country. Here’s some more facts about PA & OH from our favorite government agency, the U.S. Energy Information Administration…
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