NFG Update: Seneca Paper Loss, Production Shut-in; New Pipes Done

National Fuel Gas Company, parent of driller Seneca Resources and also an important midstream (pipeline) company, issued their quarter update yesterday. We always have to explain this. NFG counts their quarters different. Everyone else counts July through September as a calendar year third quarter. For NFG, it was their fourth quarter fiscal year. The company had a big $188 million loss for their 4Q15, vs a $57 million gain in 4Q14. However, like many others, NFG’s was a “paper loss” and not an actual money-out-the-pocket loss. The decrease is largely due to a $241 million writedown of the value of Seneca’s oil and natural gas reserves. Other news: Seneca’s production was down in 4Q15 because they decided to voluntarily shut-in 13 billion cubic feet (Bcf) of production they otherwise could have sold–due to the low price of natural gas they receive in the Marcellus. Seneca’s proved reserves (available to drill) went up 27% for fiscal year 2015. On the pipeline front, as of Nov. 1 NFG put the Westside Expansion & Modernization and Tuscarora Lateral projects into service, and they’re close to completing the Northern Access 2015 expansion project, a joint project with Tennessee Gas Pipeline’s Niagara Expansion. Here’s the full update with plenty of interesting news for the Marcellus/Utica…
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Western PA Pipeline Upgrade Almost Done; Benefits Range & Seneca

upgradeA pipeline upgrade project in western Pennsylvania is making excellent progress. In February 2014 National Fuel Gas Company (NFG) filed an application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for the Line N West Side Expansion and Modernization Project in Washington, Allegheny, Beaver, Venango and Mercer Counties, PA. The project calls for building some 23 miles of new pipeline next to an existing NFG pipeline in Washington and Beaver counties, along with compressor station and other upgrades along other portions of the existing Line N pipeline. NFG previously signed Range Resources and NFG’s own subsidiary, Seneca Resources, as customers for an increase in capacity to flow an additional 175,000 decatherms per day, Dth/d (175 million cubic feet per day, MMcf/d). The extra capacity allows Range and Seneca to move of the Marcellus Shale gas they produce in western PA to market. Although construction is still underway, NFG has asked FERC to begin partial service now, two months ahead of schedule…
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PA DEP Loses its ‘Common Sense’ in Seneca Air Pollution Ruling

Every now and again the legal definition of “adjacent” and “contiguous” pops up in lawsuits in Pennsylvania related to natural gas drilling. Two years ago we highlighted the issue (see Should PA Compressor Plants Miles Away be Considered “Adjacent”?). The argument revolves around lumping together several potential air pollution sources, like compressor plants and even well pads and pipelines–into one, common, larger source of air pollution for the purposes of regulation. Smaller sources are regulated by the PA Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) and larger sources, over a certain threshold, by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), with much stricter and more expensive standards. The PA DEP, for whatever reason, has gone after Seneca Resources and its parent company National Fuel Gas Co. for their operations in Lycoming County, PA. Even though Seneca’s well pads, pipelines and compressor stations are miles apart, because they are all owned by one corporate entity, the DEP wants them all lumped together into one source for pollution regulation. Although the combined single source would not trigger EPA regulation, Seneca/National Fuel Gas is suing the DEP to push back, on principle. The case will get a hearing in court this week…
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Trout Run Pipeline Goes Operational, Seneca Wells Connect

National Fuel Gas Midstream’s new Trout Run Gathering System (Lycoming County, PA) came online May 30 and is now delivering natural gas to the Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line (Transco). Because the new pipeline is now operational, Seneca Resources has brought online four new wells. As of a few days ago, the wells were producing a combined 45 million cubic feet of gas per day.

National Fuel Gas’ press release:

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National Fuel Does Pipeline Deal with Statoil and East Resources to Move Marcellus Shale Gas to Canadian & Northeast US Markets

National Fuel has struck a deal with Statoil and East Resources and is expanding two pipelines to handle Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale gas, sending it to markets in Canada and the Northeastern U.S. The announcement says National Fuel will build 16 miles of new pipeline from Corning, NY to Tioga County, PA, and construct a new interconnection with the Tennessee Gas Pipeline in Ontario County, NY, among other improvements.

From the National Fuel press release:

WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–National Fuel Gas Supply Corporation (“Supply”) and Empire Pipeline, Inc. (“Empire”), the companies that comprise the Pipeline and Storage segment of National Fuel Gas Company (NYSE: NFG) (“National Fuel”), have reached major milestones on two pipeline expansion projects that are the first in the industry designed to receive natural gas produced from the Marcellus Shale and transport it to key markets of Canada and the Northeast U.S. Supply has entered into a binding precedent agreement with Statoil Natural Gas LLC (“Statoil”) for 100 percent of the capacity on Supply’s “Northern Access” expansion project. Empire also has a binding precedent agreement in place with anchor shipper East Resources, Inc. (“East”) for Empire’s “Tioga County Extension” project, and is concluding negotiations for additional capacity with a second shipper. The precedent agreements provide for Statoil and East to sign, after satisfaction of conditions, firm transportation service agreements under which Supply and Empire will transport natural gas for Statoil and East.

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