PA DEP’s New Air Regs Would Exempt 80% of Conventional Wells

Last week MDN told you about onerous new regulations being proposed by the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) to cut down on supposed methane and volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions coming from *existing* oil and gas wells and pipelines (see Pa. DEP Jumps the Gun with Proposed New Emissions Regs). In our initial reporting on the proposed new regulations, one bit of information escaped our attention: Most of PA’s conventional wells (80% or more) will be exempted from these new rules. And PA’s conventional wells reportedly account for more than 50% of supposed methane emissions. There are approximately 80,000 active conventional oil and gas wells in PA, and about 10,600 active shale gas wells in PA.
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Raining on Gov. Wolf’s Parade – No Scientific Basis for Cap & Trade

Last week MDN told you that Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, liberal Democrat, is seriously considering a bizarre cap-and-trade greenhouse gas emission reduction program to eliminate carbon emissions from major sources by 2052 (see PA Gov. Wolf Seriously Considers Marcellus-Killing Cap & Trade). The program is meant to eliminate fossil fuel production and use, including Marcellus Shale production. A couple of authors, one a 35+ year geologist, the other a senior fellow with the Commonwealth Foundation, took note and co-authored a devastating article appearing on The Daily Caller that punctures cap-and-trade in general, and Wolf’s dalliance with it in particular. Wolf invoked the argument that this year has been far rainier than normal in PA, which must, of course, be due to man-made global warming. The co-authors use actual, real data on rain conditions and amounts to completely obliterate Wolf’s arguments–making him look like the fool he is.
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MarkWest Plant Explosion in Washington Co. Injures 4; 1 Critical

An explosion and fire last night around 6 pm at the MarkWest Energy natural gas processing plant in Chartiers (Washington County), PA sent four people to the hospital–carried there by helicopter. All of them remain hospitalized, and one of them is, sadly, in critical condition. The explosion happened near “two temporary tanks that were onsite for routine maintenance,” according to a MarkWest statement. The tanks hold, “liquid ethylene glycol plus hydrocarbons”–used to clean incoming raw natural gas. The PA Dept. of Environmental Protection is on location today to determine what happened and why–and to ensure there have been no negative impacts to the environment.
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Sunoco Fined $225K for Small Leak on ME1 Pipeline in 2017

The Mariner East 1 pipeline sprung a small leak and spilled 20 barrels (~840 gallons) of ethane and propane in Berks County, near Philadelphia, on April 1 (see Mariner East 1 Sprang a Small NGL Leak Near Philly, on Apr 1). Sunoco Logistics Partners (i.e. Energy Transfer), builder and maintainer of the pipeline, shut it down and fixed it over the next several days. The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC), which oversees regulation of the pipeline, has just (a year and a half later) “requested” Sunoco pay $225,000 for violating various state and federal regulations. It was an $11,250 per barrel spill.
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Pa. DEP Jumps the Gun with Proposed New Emissions Regs

We told you that yesterday the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) was meeting to unveil proposed new regulations to cut down on so-called fugitive methane emissions from existing well pads and pipelines (see Proposed New O&G Emissions Regs Will Disadvantage PA Drillers). They met and released a draft of onerous new regulations that focus more on reducing volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions than they do fugitive methane–but the result is still the same: Force drillers and pipeline companies to spend bazillions of dollars to produce a teeny tiny improvement in emissions. The Marcellus Shale Coalition said, “Rather than creating more regulatory uncertainty [with these new regs at this time], it would be prudent for DEP to delay any regulatory proposals until federal rules are finalized,” pointing out the fact that federal rules are not yet finalized. In other words, Wolf’s DEP is jumping the gun.
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New Shale Permits Down in PA & OH as Winter Begins

An analysis by Argus Media shows the number of new permits issued to drill in the Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale was down 42% in November 2018 over the same time a year ago. Drilling in Ohio’s Utica Shale was down 26% in November vs. a year ago. Yet one overpowering fact remains: Production in both states is UP over a year ago! How do you explain it? Each year drillers get better at what they do–they get more gas from drilling fewer wells. Longer laterals, more sand, improved fracking techniques–it all adds up to more production with less drilling. Our region is also still working down our DUC (drilled but uncompleted) wells inventory, which means less drilling. And winter cold has set in, early. Yeah, less drilling means fewer jobs and fewer opportunities to sell goods and services to drilling companies. But watch for the permit numbers to start going up again (our prediction). Why? Because with pipelines which recently went online and new pipes due to go online, the price our gas is fetching has dramatically increased–and that means the willingness of M-U drillers to drill new wells will increase too.
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Meeting Reveals Details re PGE’s Loyalsock Creek Pipe Project

Pennsylvania General Energy drills in several PA counties, including Lycoming County in the north central of the state. According to the Marcellus & Utica Shale Upstream Almanac 2018, PA General Energy is the fourth-largest driller in Lycoming County, with 103 producing wells and 42.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas production in 2017. PA General Energy wants to drill more wells in Lycoming. Those wells will need a gathering pipeline connected to them, and a water pipeline to provide water for drilling and fracking. Even though a water pipeline would save an estimated 126,000 truck trips on local roads, some residents are opposed (see Lycoming County Residents Oppose Loyalsock Creek Gathering Pipe). Last night residents got to hear more details about the project at a meeting organized by PA State Rep. Garth Everett.
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Proposed New O&G Emissions Regs Will Disadvantage PA Drillers

The liberal PA Gov. Tom Wolf administration continues to tinker with (i.e. destroy) the Marcellus miracle in the Keystone State. In August the Wolf Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) finally, after years of work, implemented onerous new regulations to cut down on so-called fugitive methane emissions from new drilling and pipelines (see PA Harms Drillers, Pipelines with Over-Strict Methane Rules). Existing well pads and pipelines are now in Wolf’s crosshairs. The DEP has, for some time, considered requiring new regulations to further reduce volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions at existing oil and gas sites. The DEP recently released a draft of those regs, and is meeting TODAY to discuss the new proposed regulations (see PA DEP Releasing Expensive New O&G Emissions Reg). The question is, since the federal EPA is “relaxing” the standards on which these onerous new PA standards are based, will PA, by adopting these new standards, make itself uncompetitive against other shale drilling states? PA DEP Sec. Pat McDonnell seems to think so.
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Pitt Researchers Discover Cheaper Way to Convert NGLs to Plastics

Pitt research appears on cover of journal

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh may have just discovered a way to turn “light alkanes” (i.e. propane, butane) into raw plastics that is cheaper than cracking ethane. At least, that’s what we think they’ve discovered. It’s hard to tell. In a research paper recently published titled, “Structure–Activity Relationships in Alkane Dehydrogenation on ?-Al2O3: Site-Dependent Reactions,” Pitt researchers say they’ve discovered a way to produce olefins using “the nonoxidative dehydrogenation of alkanes on metal oxides, taking advantage of the Lewis acid?base surface functionalities of the oxides.” Er, right. What we do know is that the Pitt researchers are excited about their discovery, and say, “We now have a better tool to develop active catalysts for alkane-olefin conversion, which could be a game-changer in the petrochemical and polymer industries.” Below is a write-up from Pitt about the new research, in lay language, along with an abstract from the paper.
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FERC Approves Birdsboro Pipe Near Philly to Begin Service

Birdsboro Pipeline route (click for larger version)

That was fast! Construction began on a new 14-mile pipeline from the Texas Eastern Transmission (Tetco) mainline in Rockland Township, to a natural gas-fired power plant under construction in Birdsboro in Berks County, near Philadelphia, in June (see Construction Begins for 14-Mile Pipe to Feed Berks Gas-Fired Plant). DTE Midstream is building the pipeline to feed Marcellus gas to the new, under-construction gas-fired Birdsboro Power plant being built by EmberClear. The pipeline itself was done in November and DTE asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for permission to start it up on Nov. 19. That permission was finally granted on Monday, Dec. 10. But wait! The power plant won’t be done and online until the middle of 2019…so why start up the pipeline now?
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Big Loss for Big Green – PUC Judge Won’t Shut Down ME1 & 2 Pipes

Big Green forces who pinned their hopes of stopping the Mariner East 1 and 2 pipelines on a rogue PA Public Utility Commission (PUC) administrative law judge had those hopes dashed yesterday. In May of this year, Elizabeth Barnes, PUC administration law judge, unilaterally ordered Sunoco Logistics Partners to “cease and desist all current operation, construction, including drilling activities on the Mariner East 1, 2 and Mariner East 2X pipeline” in West Whiteland Township in Chester County, PA (see Antis Get Lib Judge to Shut Down All Mariner East Pipes, Dems Rejoice). The judge also shut down all operations of the currently operating Mariner East 1 across the entire state. Barnes’ closure of ME1 and ME2 was later overturned by the full PUC (see PA PUC Overrules Lib Judge – Mariner East 1 Returns to Service and PA PUC Allows ME2 Pipeline Work to Restart Near Philly). In early December, a ginned up “emergency relief petition” was aired before Barnes. Same deal. Antis want to shut down ALL of the Mariner East projects–permanently. Barnes was the judge hearing the “testimony” of the antis, along with a vigorous defense by Sunoco. Apparently she learned her lesson. Yesterday Barnes rejected the emergency petition.
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PA Gov. Wolf Seriously Considers Marcellus-Killing Cap & Trade

On November 27, a variety of Big Green groups including the Clean Air Council, Widener University Environmental Law and Sustainability Center, eco(n)law LLC and 61 others submitted a “rulemaking petition” (407-page plan) to the Pennsylvania Environment Quality Board requesting the Board and PA Gov. Tom Wolf establish a cap-and-trade greenhouse gas emission reduction program to eliminate carbon emissions from major sources by 2052. It’s a bizarre plan, meant to eliminate fossil fuel production and use, including Marcellus Shale production. The kicker is that Wolf is actually thinking about doing it. Hey PA residents–still glad you reelected Wolf?
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FERC Approves PA to OH Risberg Pipeline to Begin Construction

Click for larger version

FERC has finally come out of its funk. At least with respect to the RH energytrans Risberg Line project. We have been waiting and waiting and waiting to bring you this exciting news: The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has given final approval for the Risberg Line project to begin construction! Risberg is 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, which didn’t happen. In October, RH energytrans was diplomatic and said, “It may take a little longer than we might hope” (see FERC Stuck in Slow Mo – Late Approving PA to OH Risberg Project). The folks at RH are far more patient than we are. Their patience has paid off. On Friday, FERC pulled the trigger and sent final approval. RH says construction will begin “by the end of this year,” which is now just over two weeks away.
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2 Workers Injured Working on Mariner East 2 Pipe Near Pittsburgh

Pipeline Inspection Gauge

Two workers were injured, one seriously, when a “pig” they were operating at a section of the nearly completed Mariner East 2 pipeline (near Pittsburgh, in Westmoreland County) accelerated and hit them late Sunday. What’s a pig? It stands for Pipeline Inspection Gauge–a device used inside a pipeline for cleaning, inspection and maintenance, and fluid batching. A pig is pushed along the inside of the pipeline by the flow of liquid or gas or (in this case), air. A pig launching station is used to insert the pig into a pipeline using a series of valves and hatches. The pig is pushed through the pipeline by the fluid/gas/air to the pig receiving station. We don’t have all the details for how this accident happened. What we know is that two workers, a man and a woman, were operating the pig when it hit them. Both were taken to the hospital. The woman was later released, but the man sustained a broken arm and is still hospitalized.
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First Domino Falls: Judge Grants PennEast Pipe Eminent Domain

It certainly seems as if the deck has been stacked against the PennEast Pipeline project, a $1 billion, 120-mile natgas pipeline that will stretch from northeast PA to the Trenton area of New Jersey. As we pointed out in November, DTE Energy’s NEXUS Pipeline, a 255-mile pipeline from Columbia County in Ohio to Southern Michigan, received its Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approval around the same time PennEast did, about a year ago. NEXUS is already built and flowing, PennEast hasn’t turned the first shovelful of dirt yet. It’s been a real battle for PennEast (see The War to Build PennEast Pipeline Continues). However, things are finally beginning to look up. Last week a federal judge granted PennEast its first approval in a string of eminent domain cases, giving PennEast the right to enter and survey a property in Carbon County, PA. Mixing our metaphors, last week’s decision is the first domino falling, with the rest sure to follow.
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Contractor Sues EQT $1.9M for Refusing to Pay for Spill Cleanup

Yet more intra-industry snipping to report (o&g companies suing o&g companies), this time between EQT and a contractor the company hired to clean up a spill (for $1.9 million) who says EQT never paid. EQT Gathering hired InterCon Construction to drill and install replacement pipeline in Indiana County, PA. InterCon did the work. During construction, InterCon experienced an “inadvertent return” (drilling mud leaking out on the surface where it’s not supposed to). InterCon fixed the issue, finished their work, and left. Triad Engineering was also involved in the project. The leak later returned. EQT asked InterCon to return and clean it up, which they did (for a price). According to court documents, EQT sued Triad for not properly sealing a bore hole, leading to the “new” leak. Yet EQT is refusing to pay InterCon for the cleanup, inferring they were to blame.
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