PA Superior Court Rejects Southwestern “Briggs” Trespass Appeal

An unwelcome and troubling development in the Southwestern Energy “Briggs” court case. MDN brought you important news in April that the Pennsylvania Superior Court had handed down a decision (known as the “Briggs” case) that has the power to greatly restrict, perhaps even stop, Marcellus drilling in PA (see PA Superior Court Overturns “Rule of Capture” for Marcellus Well and PA “Rule of Capture” Case has Power to Limit Marcellus Drilling). The issue, in brief, is that the Superior Court decision disallows using an age-old principle called the “rule of capture” when it comes to shale drilling and fracking. It opens the door to a myriad of frivolous lawsuits claiming that a fracture, a crack created during fracking, is draining gas from a neighbor’s property without justly compensating the neighbor for the gas. Southwestern successfully argued in a lower court that the odd crack here and there that may slip under a neighbor’s property is permissible. The landowner appealed to Superior Court and three judges heard the case. Two of the three overturned the lower court and sided with the landowner. Southwestern, following the decision, petitioned the Superior Court to have all of the sitting justices (called en banc) hear the case (see Southwestern Appeals “Trespass” Case to Entire PA Superior Court). Sadly, on Friday, the Superiors declined to rehear the case. The next step? Southwestern has appealed the case directly to the PA Supreme Court…
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Industry Expert Says 3 More Crackers Coming to M-U

Last week the second annual Appalachian Storage Hub Conference convened at the Hilton Garden Inn Pittsburgh/Southpointe. As we pointed out in a post last week, the main topic of discussion was the $10 billion NGL/ethane storage hub (see Southpointe Event Focuses on M-U NGL Storage Hub). As big as the storage hub project is (and the news surrounding it), there was even bigger news coming from the event: 3 more ethane cracker projects for the Marcellus/Utica are likely to announce in the coming year! Tom Gellrich, principal of Top Line Analytics, talks to a lot of people. He’s an insider. At last week’s event, Tom shared some of his insights. He said PTT Global will commit to its previously announced cracker in Belmont County, OH, sometime this year. No real revelation there–we’ve been expecting such an announcement for the past two years. That’s one of three. Then Tom said the on again, off again Braskem/Odebrecht plan to build a cracker near Parkersburg, WV is on again and he expects an announcement to that effect in the next year. Wow! That’s two of three. And then Tom teased the crowd by saying there’s a THIRD project bubbling in the background. No details on who is behind it or where it will be located. Tom says to look for an announcement on this third cracker project by this time next year. Bonus: Tom believes Shell will take a hard look at building a new/second cracker right next to the first, after the first is completed (a fourth new cracker?). We have embarrassing riches of ethane crackers! Each one costing multiple billions of dollars to build…
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ME2 Work in Lebanon, PA Halted for Spilling a Single Cup of Mud

A single cup of drilling mud, bentonite, is nothing. It is beyond nothing. Bentonite is the clay-based compound used to make toothpaste, lipstick and kitty litter. It is completely non-toxic–it goes on and in the human body! And yet when underground drilling work restarted at Snitz Creek in Lebanon County, PA for the Mariner East 2 pipeline project, a single cup of drilling mud (bentonite) came out where it wasn’t supposed to (in the creek), so once again the whole shebang was shut down. Which we find crazy. What’s next–shutting down drilling when a tablespoon of drilling mud comes out? A teaspoon? Look, we get it. There have been other spills at Snitz Creek (see ME2 Construction in Lebanon County Stopped for 50 Gal Mud Spill). If a cup comes out, maybe it will be followed by a gallon coming out. And if a gallon comes out, maybe 10 gallons or even 50 gallons will follow. Immediately halting all underground horizontal directional drilling used to install the pipeline under Snitz Creek is an “abundance of caution” thing. But come on! So what if 10 or even 50 gallons comes out? It’s bentonite and its non-toxic! Spilling 50 gallons of the stuff in the creek is like spilling 10 bags of kitty litter in the creek. A few fish and salamanders might die. So what? That’s the price of progress. Here’s the crazy news that a single cup of drilling mud has once again stopped ME2 work in Lebanon County at Snitz Creek…
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Looks Like WNY Coal-Fired Plant Will Never Convert to Gas/Reopen

In 2013, a coal-fired electric generating plant near Buffalo, NY (in Dunkirk) was slated to be converted to burn natural gas–a win/win for everyone (see Dunkirk, NY Electric Plant Saved – Converting from Coal to NatGas). Radical environmentalists like the Sierra Club opposed it, but that’s to be expected. Everything seemed to be fine until a competitor hauled NRG, the plant’s owner, into court to dispute the change from coal to natgas. They objected to ratepayers kicking in $150 million for the project. NRG said fighting the case in court will take years, so they just closed down the plant instead (see Dunkirk, NY Coal-Fired Electric Plant Closing in January 2016). It was an economic nuclear bomb for that community. The Town of Dunkirk gets 40% of its tax revenue from that single plant! New York State “generously” shucked out $5.5 million so Dunkirk wouldn’t collapse economically. But doing that year after year will get old quick. Other communities can rightly demand state help too. But then the competitor who had objected to converting the old coal plant to natgas (with ratepayer assistance) dropped their objection, and NRG restarted the project in December 2016 (see Coal-to-Gas Plant Conversion in Western NY Back from the Dead). Once again, environmental lunatics would rather bankrupt Dunkirk than let the plant restart as a gas-fired plant. They lobbied the state Public Service Commission to block the deal. That didn’t happen, but what has happened is that because of the delays caused by NY and NRG’s competitor, NRG has to “restart” the project and along with that comes connection costs–the cost to reconnect the plant to the electricity grid. Estimated reconnect costs go as high as $115 million! The cost of “transmission upgrades” according to the NY grid operator. The cost to reconnect would be almost as much as the project cost itself, meaning there’s no way in Hades NRG will build it. So although antis couldn’t get NY to regulate the project out of existence, electric grid bureaucratic claptrap will keep it out of existence. Same result…
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Platts: Marcellus/Utica has Too Much Pipeline Capacity

Luke Jackson – Platts

The LDC Gas Forum Northeast conference in Boston began yesterday and goes through tomorrow. One of the speakers yesterday was Luke Jackson, a Platts Analytics senior energy analyst. MDN editor Jim Willis heard Luke a couple of years ago at Platts’ Benposium event (see Jim’s Notebook: Benposium East Predicts Future for Oil/NatGas). Smart guy. Last year we posted analysis by Luke which said drillers will have to hurry up and drill more in order to fill up the pipelines that would soon be going online (see Platts: M-U Drillers Need to Double Rigs to Fill Pipelines in ’17). Luke returned to his theme of “not enough gas to flow through all those new pipelines” in his talk yesterday at LDC Gas Forum. Luke said there’s a growing gap between how much is getting produced and the amount of pipeline space to cart it away. He said that gap may grow to be an excess capacity of 10 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) by late 2019. Ouch! Let’s get drillin’! Also talking yesterday was Meera Bagati, manager of market analysis for NextEra Energy Resources, who addressed LNG exports and how exports may affect the Marcellus/Utica region…
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Construction Begins for 14-Mile Pipe to Feed Berks Gas-Fired Plant

Birdsboro pipeline route – click for larger version

Ladies and gentlemen–start your bulldozers! It’s time to begin building a 14-mile natural gas pipeline from the Texas Eastern Transmission (Tetco) mainline in Rockland Township, to a natural gas-fired power plant under construction in Birdsboro (Berks County, near Philadelphia). EmberClear Corp. is a Canadian-based company that builds and operates natural gas-fired electric generation plants in North America. In 2015, EmberClear filed an application to build a new 488-megawatt natural gas-fired electric plant in Birdsboro, in Berks County, near Philadelphia (see New NatGas-Fired Electric Plant Coming Near Philadelphia). In April 2017, two different Japanese companies, Sojitz Corporation and Tokyo Gas, each purchased a one-third share ownership of the Birdsboro Power project (see Japanese Now Own 2/3 of Marcellus-Powered Electric Plant in SEPA). We call the Birdsboro Power a “Japanese-owned” project, which it is, but in reality EmberClear is still the company building and operating it. The PA Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued permits for the Birdsboro project in March of this year, and the project is now under construction (see PA DEP Issues Permits for Japanese Gas-Fired Elec Plant in SEPA). In order to operate, the plant will need gas. It will get its gas from the Tetco pipeline 14 miles away, via a dedicated pipeline. Construction has begun on the pipeline. Or rather, preliminary construction–clearing trees, etc. It will only take a few months to complete the pipeline project…
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DRBC, SRBC Castigated for Regulatory Overreach @ PA House Hearing

The Pennsylvania House State Government Committee held a hearing yesterday on the “regulatory overreach” by the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) and Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC). The big guns came out and blew multiple holes in the DRBC and SRBC. One of the big guns was PA State Rep. Jonathan Fritz, who said the DRBC has become “dangerous, unaccountable, and rogue.” Never truer words were spoken! MDN friend Tom Shepstone was there (his testimony below), as was Betty Sutliff from Upper Delaware River Basin Citizens. Marcellus Shale Coalition president Dave Spigelmyer delivered a powerful condemnation of the DRBC, calling their proposed frack ban “absurd.” Not be left out, DRBC executive director Steve Tambini (a major disappointment in that role) tried to defend the indefensible. To his credit, at least he showed up. Here’s a rundown on what happened yesterday, the castigation of the DRBC and SRBC…
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Energy Stories of Interest: Tue, Jun 12, 2018

The “best of the rest”–stories that caught MDN’s eye that you may be interested in reading: PA House postpones hearing on permit reform bill Wolf wanted, because now he doesn’t want it; Wolf aims to increase utility bills via severance tax; early impacts from Rover pipe on Michigan & Dawn Hub; soaring NGL supplies may soon overwhelm Gulf Coast fractionation capacity; environmentalists rename methane “renewable biogas” so they can support it; global LNG trade continues to grow; Germany’s wacky logic in supporting Big Solar; and more!
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