PTT Global Chemical Officially Delays Cracker Decision Until 2018

PTT Global Chemical, based in Thailand, continues to delay a final investment decision (FID) regarding their much-ballyhooed ethane cracker project in Belmont County, OH. In April 2015, PTT announced they are interested in building a ~$5 billion ethane cracker plant complex in Belmont County, OH (see It’s Official: Belmont County Chosen as POSSIBLE Cracker Plant Site). In May 2016, a story in the Bangkok Post said the final investment decision (FID) will definitely come in 2017. In December 2016, Belmont County officials said the FID would come by the end of March this year (see OH Cracker Final Decision Coming Soon, Site Now Cleared & Ready). But in February, PTT said the FID won’t come until “late 2017,” which is “several months later than we originally announced” (see PTT Global Delays Final Investment Decision for OH Ethane Cracker). Two weeks ago a PTT representative said the company will make some sort of an announcement “by the end of the year” (see PTT Global Final Decision re Belmont Cracker Plant Late Again). We now have the announcement: “PTTGC America will have a significant update that will demonstrate momentum for this project early in 2018. We thank all Ohio and Belmont County partners for their support, and we wish you a happy holiday season.” So the big announcement is that there will be another big announcement in “early 2018.” Yeah, we’re becoming irritated at being teased that the decision is just around the corner…
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PA Fed Judge Rejects Class Action in Chesapeake Royalty Case

Yesterday a Pennsylvania federal judge denied a group of 600+ Marcellus Shale landowners’ request to form a class action in arbitrating a royalty case against Chesapeake Energy. Although the judge’s decision is a disappointment for landowners, his decision should come as a surprise. In April, the same judge, U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann for the Middle District of PA, telegraphed that the landowners, under the law (and under the leases they signed) did not have a right to form a class action (see Chesapeake Scores Court Victory to Prevent PA Royalty Class Action). However, the landowners continued to pursue it by appealing the judge’s initial decision. Brann, in rendering yesterday’s decision, begins his written ruling with a quote from the Lord of the Rings: “Short cuts make long delays.” His point: The landowners tried to short circuit the legal process and they can’t. Landowners will need to individually litigate/arbitrate their cases with Chesapeake. The judge lectured landowners that they could have already been well on their way to a resolution of their individual cases had they not stubbornly continued to pursue class action arbitration. Below we have a brief background on the case to better understand the decision, followed by a copy of Judge Brann’s decision from yesterday…Continue reading

Ultra Petroleum Sells Its 72K Marcellus Acres to Alta Res. for $115M

Ultra Petroleum, based in Houston, TX, is an independent exploration and production (E&P) company mainly focused on drilling in the Green River Basin of Wyoming. Ultra also drills for oil in the Uinta Basin/Three Rivers area in Utah. In addition, Ultra maintains a “non-operated” (someone else does the drilling) position in the Pennsylvania Marcellus shale with leases on 72,000 net acres–no small amount. As recently as May of this year Ultra CEO Michael Watford signaled that the Marcellus acreage is not a drain on their budget, so they would just hold on to it and see what happens (see Ultra Petroleum 1Q17 – Holding on to 72K Marcellus Acres, for Now). What happened is the company saw an opportunity to cash in that acreage, and the wells producing on it, for $115 million in cold, hard cash that they can use elsewhere. Ultra announced a deal yesterday to sell all of their Marcellus acreage/wells, mostly located in Centre and Clinton counties in north-central PA, to Alta Resources. Alta is not a name we’ve seen a lot, but they were one of the first drillers we wrote about just after starting the MDN website back in 2009 (see Texas Billionaire George Mitchell is Betting on the Marcellus in PA). George Mitchell, widely recognized as the father of shale energy, was a partner in Alta and had glowing things to say about the Marcellus. Mitchell died in 2013. His legacy lives on. According to Alta’s website, the company has drilled or participated in more than a thousand wells–in Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Pennsylvania and Alberta, Canada. The most recent news related to Alta in our area, prior to yesterday’s announcement, was their purchase of Anadarko’s Marcellus assets for $1.24 billion in December 2016 (see Anadarko Sells All Marcellus Assets for $1.24B to Alta Resources). Seems like December is the month to watch for an Alta purchase in the Marcellus!…
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Atlantic Coast Pipe Asks FERC to Begin Tree Cutting in WV, VA, NC

Dominion’s $5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) project recently asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for permission to begin clearing trees along the path of the pipeline in all three states where the pipeline will run: West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina. FERC approved the project in October (see FERC Approves Atlantic Coast, Mountain Valley Pipeline Projects). However, two of the three states–Virginia and North Carolina–have not yet given final water crossing permits for the project (see Atlantic Coast Pipeline Delayed in Virginia by Water Board Vote and NC Plays “Death by a Thousand Questions” with Atlantic Coast Pipe). ACP isn’t letting state agencies put a damper on the project. Just a few weeks ago ACP announced it had signed contracts with four labor unions to do the construction work, and had filed eminent domain lawsuits against holdout landowners who have refused to negotiate leases (see Atlantic Coast Pipe Gets Ready to Build: Union Help, Eminent Domain). And now ACP is asking FERC for permission to begin clearing trees, giving antis apoplexy…
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PA PUC Votes to Let ME2 Pipe Restart Construction in West Goshen

In July, West Goshen Township, in the Philadelphia suburb of Chester County, won a temporary victory in their efforts to stop Sunoco Logistics’ Mariner East 2 (ME2) NGL pipeline in their community (see Judge Temporarily Stops ME2 Valve Station in West Goshen). West Goshen objected to Sunoco building a new valve station. West Goshen wanted the valve station built next to an existing Mariner East 1 valve station, but Sunoco wanted to build the new station across the street from that location, citing safety concerns. West Goshen appealed a decision by the state Public Utility Commission (PUC) allowing Sunoco to build the valve station where they wanted to build it. In July an administrative law judge agreed with West Goshen, stopping not only construction of the valve station, but also construction of the ME2 pipeline itself through the township. Fast forward to today. Sunoco has given up the fight to build the West Goshen valve station, so yesterday the PUC voted 3-2 to allow Sunoco to restart construction of the pipeline in West Goshen. Of course the antis who run West Goshen like a private fiefdom are objecting because Sunoco hasn’t said what their alternative to building the valve station (a safety feature) will be. Hey, West Goshen’s “leaders” were the ones who didn’t want the valve station in the first place! West Goshen’s “leaders” are the ones who have made the pipeline through their community “less safe” because they didn’t want the valve station. Now they need to live with their bone-headed actions–and answer to their voting constituents…
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NY Resident (& Lawyer) Sues DEC in Federal Court re Frack Ban

In 2015 MDN told you about an Allegany County, NY attorney who had filed a lawsuit against the New York Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC) over their infamous frack ban. It was the first such lawsuit to be filed against the DEC since the frack ban was officially declared (see It’s Official: Cuomo Bans Economic Opportunity & Prosperity in NY). The lawsuit was filed in state Supreme Court in Allegany County. Don’t be fooled by the Supreme Court label. In screwed-up NY, Supreme Court is one level up from county court. The judge tossed the case saying the attorney/landowner didn’t have standing to file the lawsuit in the first place because he never had a permit to drill on his property. The Appellate Division upheld the decision against the attorney/landowner earlier this year. You see, in NY, everything is rigged–even our judicial system, where the judges want to protect their cushy jobs (appointed by our corrupt governor, Andrew Cuomo). The attorney/landowner from Allegany is back. This time he filed the same lawsuit in federal court–bypassing Cuomo-appointed judges. We have a copy of the 95-page complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York…
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Ridgetop Energy Services Expands Again – in Southern Marcellus

Ridgetop Energy Services, headquartered in Canonsburg, PA, was started in early 2016 by Ridgetop Capital Partners. Ridgetop Capital is an energy and real estate investment firm. Since 2007, Ridgetop Capital has purchased 30,000 acres in the PA, WV and OH, and has invested $130 million in the region (often partnering with big drillers like EQT, Antero, Chesapeake, Range Resources and others). In addition to investing in acreage, Ridgetop also wanted in on some of the drilling action, so the company formed Ridgetop Energy Services in 2016 to buy up service companies that work in the shale space. In June, Ridgetop Energy bought Keystone Wireline (see Ridgetop Energy Services Buys Keystone Wireline Inc.). Ridgetop Energy is expanding again–by purchasing “two service rigs and a swabbing unit stationed in northern West Virginia” from C&J Energy Services…
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Antis Meet with PA Gov. Wolf, Ask Him to Illegally Block ME2 Pipe

A group of six radical Democrats who oppose the Mariner East 2 pipeline through southeast Pennsylvania met yesterday with Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf to gripe and moan–and to ask Wolf to illegally shut down construction of the pipeline (a pipeline which is now 91% done). Wolf politely listened–and then did nothing. Which is good. The radicals hold out hope that Wolf will change his mind and use his executive authority under Title 35 (dealing with health and safety) as an excuse to shut down all ME2 construction. Good luck with that. A statement issued later in the day by a Wolf spokesman seems to indicate the governor is punting any decisions about shutting down construction over to the Public Utility Commission. Yesterday the PUC vote to allow already-shut-down ME2 construction in one SE PA town to resume (see today’s story, PA PUC Votes to Let ME2 Pipeline Restart Construction in West Goshen). All of which says to us that Wolf won’t do a thing to stop completion of ME2, which angers the radicals all the more…
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New FERC Chairman Launches Review of Pipeline Approval Process

Yesterday the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) held its first public meeting with Kevin McIntyre as its new chairman. Delivering on a promise McIntyre made during his Senate confirmation hearing, the new chairman announced that FERC will conduct a top-to-bottom review of its 1999 policy statement that governs how the commission conducts reviews of pipeline projects. The news lit up the swamp (inside the Beltway of Washington, D.C.), with Big Green groups becoming positively giddy at the thought that FERC may “get serious” about considering the hoax of man-made global warming in its decisions on whether or not to authorize new pipelines. At this point, the review and what it may result in, is all speculation. The statement released by FERC following yesterday’s meeting (see it below) says, in essence, “stay tuned” and offers no details about this top-to-bottom review. The greenies are speculating, so why can’t we? We speculate that following this review, FERC will figure out a way to cut down on the frivolous lawsuits filed by Big Green groups that delay pipeline projects for years. And we speculate that FERC will figure out how to handle rogue states, like New York, who refuse to obey federal law. What if that’s the end result of this review? Don’t forget, four of the five members sitting on the Commission are Trump appointees–and three of those four are Republicans. You really think this commission is going to introduce man-made global warming flummery as part of the criteria they use in evaluating a new pipeline project? If you think that, we want some of what you’re smoking…
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Merry Christmas & Happy New Year from MDN

We wish you a Merry Christmas..and a Happy New Year! This is rare. MDN will take off (i.e. no new stories posted) between Christmas and New Year’s Day in observance of the holiday season. Don’t worry, we’ll still keep an eye on the news and if anything earth-shattering happens, we’ll post about it. However, our intent is to take a break from writing for an entire week–it won’t be easy! We will see you again on Tuesday, January 2nd.

A brief note to thank you, our loyal readers, from the bottom of our heart. Thank you for subscribing and resubscribing year after year. We take our responsibility seriously to bring you the news–in context–throughout the year. We look forward to 2018 with eager anticipation for what it will bring in the Marcellus/Utica.

Enjoy this Christmas carol (and our wish to you) from the inimitable Celtic Women:
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