FERC Stuck in Slow Mo – Late Approving PA to OH Risberg Project

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Seems to us like the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) continues to drag its feet on Marcellus/Utica pipeline projects. Yes, our projects get approved, eventually–but not on the schedule FERC itself establishes. Case in point: RH energytrans’ Risberg Line–a 60-mile, $86 million pipeline from Crawford County, PA through Erie County and into Ashtabula County, OH. According to FERC’s own schedule, an OK for the project was due no later than Sept. 27 (see 60-Mile Pipeline from NW PA to NE OH Gets Favorable FERC Review). Didn’t happen. RH energytrans is being diplomatic, saying, “It may take a little longer than we might hope.”
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Risberg Pipe from NW PA to NE OH Plans Construction in October

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RH energytrans, which plans to build a 60-mile, $86 million pipeline from Crawford County, PA through Erie County and into Ashtabula County, OH, says they expect to begin digging for the new pipeline soon. RH officials told North Kingsville officials (Ashtabula County) last week that “construction could begin soon.” How soon? Early October, provided they get a final OK from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Last October MDN brought you details about the proposed Risberg Line pipeline project (see New 60-Mile Pipeline Proposed from NW Pa. to NE Ohio). The project will use approximately 32 miles of existing pipeline in an established Right of Way originating in the Meadville, PA area. Approximately 16 miles of new pipeline will be built in Pennsylvania and approximately 12 miles of new pipeline will be built in Ohio–meaning 28 miles of brand new “greenfield” pipeline needs to get built. In late June, FERC issued a favorable environmental assessment for the project (see 60-Mile Pipeline from NW PA to NE OH Gets Favorable FERC Review). A favorable EA is the penultimate step before FERC gives a final OK. That final OK is due no later than Sept. 27. Clearly RH believes they will get a final OK within the next two weeks, and they’re communicating with communities, alerting them construction is about to begin…
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60-Mile Pipeline from NW PA to NE OH Gets Favorable FERC Review

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Last October MDN brought you details about the proposed $86 million Risberg Line pipeline project (see New 60-Mile Pipeline Proposed from NW Pa. to NE Ohio). The project will use approximately 32 miles of existing pipeline in an established Right of Way originating in the Meadville, PA area. Approximately 16 miles of new pipeline will be installed in Pennsylvania and approximately 12 miles of new pipeline will be installed in Ohio–meaning 28 miles of brand new “greenfield” pipeline needs to get built. Both the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission are “cooperating agencies” and part of the environmental assessment (EA) review process, along with the lead agency, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Good news: FERC issued the EA on Friday (full copy below), and the project passes with flying colors. While this is not a final stamp of approval (which is due by Sept. 27th), when FERC issues a favorable EA, it’s almost certain they will approve the project…
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Short Pipeline from NW Pa. to NE Ohio May Not Get Done This Year

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Last October MDN brought you details about the proposed $86 million Risberg Line pipeline project (see New 60-Mile Pipeline Proposed from NW Pa. to NE Ohio). The project will use approximately 32 miles of existing pipeline in an established Right of Way originating in the Meadville, PA area. Approximately 16 miles of new pipeline will be installed in Pennsylvania and approximately 12 miles of new pipeline will be installed in Ohio–meaning 28 miles of brand new “greenfield” pipeline needs to get built. In early May, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) said it will issue an environmental assessment (EA) for the project on or by June 29th (see FERC Review of Risberg Pipeline in NE OH/NW PA Coming June 29). Both the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the PA Fish and Boat Commission are “cooperating agencies” and part of the EA review process. Following the EA, the clock will begin ticking and FERC will have until Sept. 27th to make a final decision about the project. The original timeline for the project, from the beginning, has been to have it all built and operating by the end of this year. The builder, RH energytrans, is now cautioning that may not happen. Why? Because one never knows with regulatory agencies like FERC and the Army Corps and the Boat Commission. Deadlines come and go and get extended. FERC says the dates they given are targets and not carved in stone. If everything happened as FERC laid out, RH says it would be a challenge, but they can probably get the job done this year. But if the deadline slips, all bets are off…
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FERC Review of Risberg Pipeline in NE OH/NW PA Coming June 29

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Last October MDN brought you details about the proposed $86 million Risberg Line pipeline project (see New 60-Mile Pipeline Proposed from NW Pa. to NE Ohio). The project will use approximately 32 miles of existing pipeline in an established Right of Way originating in the Meadville, PA area. Approximately 16 miles of new pipeline will be installed in Pennsylvania and approximately 12 miles of new pipeline will be installed in Ohio–meaning 28 miles of brand new “greenfield” pipeline needs to get built. Two school districts in Ohio where the pipeline will traverse agreed to reduce the amount of property tax the pipeline would need to pay by 75% over a 15-year period, a huge vote of confidence (see Update on Proposed 60-Mile Pipeline from NW Pa. to NE Ohio). We have an update on the project. On Tuesday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) said it will issue an environmental assessment (EA) for the project on or by June 29th. Both the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission are “cooperating agencies” and part of the EA review process. Following the EA, the clock will begin ticking and FERC will have until Sept. 27th to make a final decision about the project…
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2 Horiz. Clinton Sandstone Wells Drilled in Ashtabula County, OH

Ashtabula County, OH

Once upon a time the Clinton Sandstone layer was the most drilled rock layer in Ohio. Then the Utica/Point Pleasant came along and it seemed as if everybody forgot about the Clinton. Previously the Clinton was drilled vertically, or conventional-only. But what if you drilled the Clinton horizontally, like you do in the Utica? You might get a “Utica-lite” well, as we commented back in 2015 (see Ohio Clinton Sandstone Horiz Wells on the Increase – Utica-Lite?). EnverVest, among others, has experimented with horizontal drilling in the Clinton Sandstone (see EnerVest Likes Clinton Sandstone “Utica-lite” Oil Wells in OH). According to drillers who have experimented in the Clinton, drilling a horizontal Clinton well is anywhere from 3-10 times more expensive than a conventional well, but it produces anywhere from 7 to 20 times more oil, which is typically the hydrocarbon companies drill for in the Clinton. Today we spotted a story about a driller we had not previously heard of (which is rare), currently drilling two horizontal Clinton wells in Ashtabula County, OH. Here’s an update on drilling in the Clinton Sandstone in Ohio…
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Ashtabula, OH Residents Give New Pipeline Thumbs Up @ Open House

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RH energytrans, which plans to build a short 60-mile pipeline from Pennsylvania to Ashtabula County, OH, recently held an open house for government officials, landowners who will be affected by the pipeline, and “interested residents.” The event was held in Conneaut (Ashtabula County), OH, and was remarkable for what didn’t happen. What didn’t happen was antis protesting. Local officials (those who spoke) unanimously support the project and the fracked natural gas it will bring to the county. We didn’t spot a single negative comment–from officials, landowners or interested residents. In October MDN brought you details about the proposed $86 million Risberg Line Project (see New 60-Mile Pipeline Proposed from NW Pa. to NE Ohio). The project will use approximately 32 miles of existing pipeline in an established Right of Way originating in the Meadville, PA area. Approximately 16 miles of new pipeline will be installed in Pennsylvania and approximately 12 miles of new pipeline will be installed in Ohio–meaning 28 miles of brand new “greenfield” pipeline needs to get built. Two school districts in Ohio where the pipeline will traverse have agreed to reduce the amount of property tax the pipeline would need to pay by 75% over a 15-year period–a huge vote of confidence (see Update on Proposed 60-Mile Pipeline from NW Pa. to NE Ohio). Here’s what happened last week at the RH energytrans open house for the Risberg Line Project…
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Update on Proposed 60-Mile Pipeline from NW Pa. to NE Ohio

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We have some progress to report, and a pair of public hearings coming up, for a pipeline project proposed to run from Meadville, PA area (Crawford County) and extend in a northwest direction to Ashtabula County, OH. Three weeks ago MDN brought you details about the proposed Risberg Line Project, to be built by RH energytrans (see New 60-Mile Pipeline Proposed from NW Pa. to NE Ohio). The project will use approximately 32 miles of existing pipeline in an established Right of Way originating in the Meadville, PA area. Approximately 16 miles of new pipeline will be installed in Pennsylvania and approximately 12 miles of new pipeline will be installed in Ohio–meaning 28 miles of brand new “greenfield” pipeline needs to get built. The new news that we’ve learned is that two school districts in Ohio where the pipeline will traverse have agreed to reduce the amount of property tax the pipeline would need to make by 75% over a 15-year period. That’s a huge vote of confidence. We also learn that around 100 Erie and Ashtabula county property owners have already signed easements to allow the pipeline across their property. While no pipeline project anywhere in the northeast has a smooth ride, this one certainly seems to be sailing right along. Perhaps the first test of whether or not anti-fossil fuel nutters will begin to oppose it will come at a pair of public hearings for the project–one on Dec. 5 in Conneaut, OH, and the other Dec. 6 in Edinboro, PA…
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New 60-Mile Pipeline Proposed from NW Pa. to NE Ohio

Correction: Please note the correction below. Opatho Gas Trans LLC is not owned by EmKey Energy, et al. Our understanding was in error. RH energytrans contacted MDN to correct the record. We appreciate it!

A new 60-mile pipeline is being proposed by a new pipeline company, to connect shale production in northwest Pennsylvania to markets in northeast Ohio. Last week RH energytrans filed an application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to build the Risberg Line Project. The route will begin in the Meadville, PA area (Crawford County) and extend in a northwest direction to Ashtabula County, OH. The project will use approximately 32 miles of existing pipeline in an established Right of Way originating in the Meadville, PA area. Approximately 16 miles of new pipeline will be installed in Pennsylvania and approximately 12 miles of new pipeline will be installed in Ohio. According to RH energytrans, there is a need for additional natural gas supplies in the Ashtabula area to enhance future commercial business development and as a backup for residential customers. The pipeline will provide 55 million cubic feet per day (MMcf/d) of natural gas to Ashtabula. RH energytrans, with offices in Erie, PA, is owned by Opatho Gas Trans LLC. In a case of Russian matryoshka (nesting) dolls, Opatho is owned by EmKey Energy, Viking Energy Broker and Nucomer Energy. EmKey has pipeline operations in both PA and NY, so you might say (with some justification) that this is a project of EmKey. Corrected: Opatho is owned by three Norwegian companies: Solodden AS, Vicsund AS, and Hellberg Eiendom AS. Opatho has some owners in common with EmKey, Viking Energy Broker and Nucomer Energy. However, it would be incorrect to say that Opatho is owned by EmKey or that the Risberg Line Project is an EmKey project. Below is the official 449-page FERC filing with all the details, along with a summary of the project. We have a handy timeline, and a map of the pipeline route…
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Ashtabula, OH GTL Plant on Hold “Indefinitely”

VelocysLast month MDN brought you the news that UK-based Velocys, a company that builds gas-to-liquids (GTL) plants has, for now, put a previously planned GTL plant project in Ashtabula, OH on hold (see Velocys Puts Ashtabula, OH Gas-to-Liquids Plant Put on Hold). As a quick reminder, GTL plants convert natural gas, a hydrocarbon, into other hydrocarbons, like diesel fuel, gasoline, solvents and (for Ashtabula) waxes. An abundance of cheap natural gas in the Marcellus/Utica is one of the prime motivators for establishing a GTL plant in eastern Ohio. Buried in a press release in early July, Velocys said it had put the Ashtabula project “on hold” because they can’t get investors to pony up money for the project. Later in July the company issued a newsletter in which the reason for the delay seems to have changed. They now say the wax market in North America is not economical–at least right now. The local newspaper in Ashtabula picked up on that statement and is saying the Ashtabula project is on hold “indefinitely”…
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Velocys Puts Ashtabula, OH Gas-to-Liquids Plant Put on Hold

on holdIt’s been some time since we’ve heard anything about/from the Ashtabula Gas-to-Liquids (GTL) plant project that Velocys says it will build in Ashtabula, Ohio. As a quick tutorial for those who may not know, GTL converts natural gas, a hydrocarbon, into other hydrocarbons, like diesel fuel, gasoline, solvents and (for Ashtabula) waxes. An abundance of cheap natural gas in the Marcellus/Utica is one of the prime motivators for establishing a GTL plant in the area. But although we’ve heard plenty of talk about such plants, none of them seem to get built–including the Ashtabula plant. There has been progress on the Ashtabula project. Early in 2015 Velocys filed for a permit, which was subsequently granted (see Ohio EPA Issues Final Permit for Ashtabula GTL Plant). Late last year Velocys announced the successful completion of pilot plant tests (see Velocys Makes Progress with Tech Used in Ashtabula GTL Plant). Since that time, we’ve heard nothing. Until now. Buried at the very end of a press release issued yesterday, Velocys said it has put the Ashtabula project “on hold” because they can’t get investors to pony up money for the project. Below is the Velocys announcement, followed by some analysis of what may really be going on…
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Ashtabula GTL Plant Builder Velocys Gets New CEO

MDN Update: Velocys’ former CEO, Roy Lipski, contacted MDN to express concern that our reference to an earlier story about his departure (the way we present it) is misleading and harmful. We apologize. Roy points out that although he left the company, there was, after an investigation, no finding of any wrongdoing

UK-based Velocys is the company building the Ashtabula, OH Gas-to-Liquids (GTL) plant to convert natural gas into other hydrocarbons like diesel fuel and even gasoline. In July 2015, Velocys suspended its CEO, Roy Lipski, for potential misconduct (see Velocys GTL Company Suspends CEO for Possible Serious Misconduct). Velocys said at the time there was no financial misconduct involved (which makes you wonder just what did happen), and a month later, in August, Lipski left the company for good. It’s taken a while, but Velocys has finally located a new CEO. Yesterday they announced the appointment of David Pummell as the next CEO…
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Velocys Makes Progress with Tech Used in Ashtabula GTL Plant

The Ashtabula, OH GTL (gas-to-liquids) plant being developed in Ashtabula County, OH is one step closer to reality, according to a press release recently issued by Velocys, the company building the plant. Velocys announced the successful completion of pilot plant tests. Velocys, a UK-based company, maintains a pilot plant in Ohio where they experiment with GTL designs. According to the release, the results of these latest tests are being incorporated into the design of the Ashtabula GTL plant. We’d be remiss if we also didn’t remind you that earlier this year Velocys suspended its CEO, Roy Lipski, for potential misconduct (see Velocys GTL Company Suspends CEO for Possible Serious Misconduct). Velocys said at the time there was no financial misconduct involved (which makes you wonder just what did happen), and a month later, in August, Lipski left the company for good (see Energy Voice, Velocys parts company with suspended chief executive). Apparently the company has recovered from that mishap and is now pushing forward with all speed. It’s great to see them making progress with their technology and with the Ashtabula project…
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Ohio EPA Issues Final Permit for Ashtabula GTL Plant

In March the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency issued a draft permit to Ashtabula Energy that will allow the company to build a gas-to-liquids (GTL) plant converting Utica Shale gas into other products like diesel fuel (see OH EPA Issues Draft Lake Erie Discharge Permit for Ashtabula GTL Plant). The permit will allow the plant to discharge wastewater into Lake Erie (essentially freshwater used for cooling in the plant). After holding two public meetings and further consideration, the Ohio EPA has issued a final permit to Ashtabula–a sign that the project will now move forward. Just one teeny tiny problem that we can see. Ashtabula was bought out by Velocys GTL, the manufacturer of the equipment that will be used in the plant. Just over a week ago Velocys suspended its CEO for “possible serious misconduct” (see Velocys GTL Company Suspends CEO for Possible Serious Misconduct). So what does that mean for the future of the Ashtabula GTL project?…
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Velocys GTL Company Suspends CEO for Possible Serious Misconduct

Please see the note on this article for an update about this story.

In September 2013 MDN told you about an innovative new $300 million gas-to-liquids (GTL) plant being built in Ashtabula, OH that will convert Marcellus and Utica Shale gas into chemicals and diesel fuel (see Utica Shale Gas-to-Liquids Plant Planned for Ashtabula, OH and More Details on Ashtabula, OH Gas-to-Liquids Plant). The plant was going to be built by a Houston-based company called Pinto Energy using technology created by UK-based Velocys. But last June Velocys announced they were buying out Pinto Energy lock, stock and barrel–including (and primarily for) the Ashtabula GTL plant (see UK-based Velocys Buys Ashtabula, OH GTL Plant). The last we heard about the Ashtabula GTL plant was that the Ohio EPA issued a draft Lake Erie discharge permit in March 2015 and scheduled hearings about the plant (see OH EPA Issues Draft Lake Erie Discharge Permit for Ashtabula GTL Plant). Here’s the bombshell: Velocys has just suspended its Chief Executive Officer, Roy Lipski, pending an investigation into “allegations of serious misconduct”…
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OH EPA Issues Draft Lake Erie Discharge Permit for Ashtabula GTL Plant

The Ashtabula (OH) gas-to-liquids, or GTL, plant is ever-so-gradually making progress. In Sept. 2013 MDN first told you about this innovative plant coming to Ashtabula County (see Utica Shale Gas-to-Liquids Plant Planned for Ashtabula, OH). The plant will convert Marcellus and Utica Shale gas into diesel fuel, lubricants, solvents and waxes. The technology used for the plant is provided by a UK company called Velocys. In June 2014, Velocys bought out the Astabula operation and took up the reigns of the project (see UK-based Velocys Buys Ashtabula, OH GTL Plant). We didn’t hear anything about it until January of this year when Ashtabula Energy, a division of Velocys, has filed for a permit with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) that would allow the plant to discharge wastewater into Lake Erie (see New Life for Ashtabula Gas-to-Liquids Plant, Files for Permit). The new news is that the OEPA has issued a draft discharge permit for the plant and has scheduled a public hearing on it…
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