Two More $1M NatGas Pipeline Grants Coming Courtesy PA Taxpayers

PA Gov. Tom Wolf

It’s Christmas in Pennsylvania. Last week PA Gov. Tom Wolf and his Dept. of Community and Economic Development (DCED) announced the award of nine grants “to promote energy efficiency and spur economic development.” Among those nine grants are two grants for new natural gas pipelines. Two $1 million grants were awarded from the PA Pipeline Investment Program (PIPE), one to flow gas to a wax manufacturer in McKean County that wants to switch from using coal to natgas, and the other to serve over 500 new residential and business gas customers in Wayne County. Other grants in the list of nine include $965,000 for a 2000 kW CHP (combined heat and power) system for the Villanova University campus, and $1.2 million for a 2,000 kW CHP system for the Bayer Healthcare facility in Myerstown. In general we’re not in favor of corporate welfare, which is what this is (let’s just be honest). However, this is a pretty mild case of it. We can think of worse ways to blow taxpayer’s money. Essentially these relatively small investments keep more PA gas in PA by running pipelines to residents and businesses that will use it, and by helping fund power plants that will use it. Think of the grants as seed money to encourage more PA gas staying in PA, generating jobs at the same time…
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Seneca Resources Wastewater Recycling Plant Largest in PA

A few years ago Seneca Resources (wholly-owned drilling subsidiary of National Fuel Gas Company) purchased a wastewater treatment facility at the McKean County Landfill and began using it to recycle Seneca’s brine (wastewater). The operation was renamed Highland Field Services and now handles all of the “sourcing, handling and recycling of fluids associated with the Seneca’s Appalachian development program.” Because of the facility, last year Seneca was able to recycle 100% of it’s brine/wastewater, and because of that, some 75% of all the fluids Seneca used in their 2017 drilling activities came from the Highland facility. Put another way, Seneca had to acquire and use fresh water sources for only 25% of all the water they needed to drill and frack–far less fresh water was needed in Seneca’s operations last year than in previous years. Not only did the Highland facility handle 100% of Seneca’s wastewater, it also handled wastewater for other drillers too–a total of 7.9 million barrels between Seneca and other drillers, making Highland the largest oil and gas wastewater recycling facility in PA…
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Seneca Resources 100% PA Utica Focused by ‘End of Fiscal Year’

While Buffalo “Marcellus” Bills owner Terry Pegula’s JKLM Energy has been “steadily increasing activity” in Potter County, PA (northcentral PA) grabbing headlines, another company, National Fuel Gas (NFG) subsidiary Seneca Resources, is also active in Potter and several neighboring northcentral PA counties (Cameron, McKean, Elk, and Lycoming). We spotted a pair of stories in a local newspaper recounting Seneca’s activity to date, and outlining plans for the future. One statement in particular stood out for us: Seneca will be “shifting to 100-percent Utica development by the end of this fiscal year.” At first blush, you might think “end of fiscal year” means by Dec. 31, 2017. However, NFG and subsidiary Seneca operate on a strange fiscal year. Fourth quarter 2017 (Oct-Dec) is NFG/Seneca’s first quarter 2018 fiscal period. Since the quote about focusing 100% on PA Utica drilling came at the end of November, we interpret the quote to mean “Seneca will be 100% focused on the PA Utica by September 2018.” At any rate, let’s not get caught up in semantics and timing. The takeaways from the pair of articles below, which appeared about a week apart at end of November/beginning of December, are: (1) Seneca is shifting to 100% Utica drilling; (2) Seneca spent 60% more on drilling in 2017 than 2016; (3) Seneca is currently running either 1 or 2 rigs, depending on which quote from which story you read; and (4) between royalty payments, impact tax payments and money spent with local PA businesses, Seneca has now spent nearly $1 billion on shale drilling–all of it in northcentral PA…
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Pin Oak Energy Snaps Up 4,300 Acres, 16 Wells from Seneca in NWPA

In August MDN introduced you to a new-to-us driller based in Akron, Ohio–Pin Oak Energy Partners (see New Marcellus/Utica Driller Snaps Up Assets in OH, PA). Pin Oak is owns both conventional and unconventional (shale) oil and natural gas wells, along with associated assets (like pipelines). At the time, Pin Oak currently operated 363 wells producing nearly 5.7 MMcfe/d (32% liquids) across more than 32,000 acres in the Marcellus/Utica region. You can now add another 16 wells (14 Marcellus, 2 Utica) and 4,300 acres to those totals. Yesterday Pin Oak announced they have purchased wells and acreage from Seneca Resources–in Forest, Elk, McKean and Cameron counties in Pennsylvania. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. We can also tell you that last week Pin Oak got an increase in their line of credit with the bank–now able to borrow up to $150 million. Here’s the latest on the newest (rapidly growing) entrant to the Marcellus/Utica…
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Ridgetop Energy Services Buys Keystone Wireline Inc.

You know those Russian nesting dolls, which are called matryoshka dolls, where you open one and inside you see another? And you open that and inside is yet another? And on it goes four or five times. That’s how we felt when digging into this story. The news is that Ridgetop Energy Services, headquartered near Pittsburgh, has purchased Keystone Wireline Inc., located in Bradford (McKean County), PA. Who is Ridgetop and how does Keystone Wireline fit into the picture? That’s what leads us to a matryoshka doll…
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Seneca Resources Fined $375K by PA DEP for “Multiple Violations”

The Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection has just fined driller Seneca Resources $325,000 for a series of violations that occurred between 2013 and 2015. It seems in moving dirt around when building drill pads, Seneca caused erosion to occur. They also spilled ~100 barrels of crude oil in one location, and ~500 barrels of wastewater at another location. The violations happened in Forest, McKean, and Elk Counties. Here’s the notice issued by the PA DEP…
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NFG’s Northern Access Pipe in NY/PA Gets FERC Approval

NFG’s Northern Access 2016 Pipeline map – click for larger version

National Fuel Gas Company (NFG), the Buffalo-based utility giant with both a drilling subsidiary (Seneca Resources) and a midstream/pipeline subsidiary (Empire Pipeline) filed an application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in March 2015 for a pipeline project they call Northern Access 2016 (later renamed to simply Northern Access Project, dropping the “2016” part). The $455 million project includes building 97 miles of new pipeline along a power line corridor from northwestern Pennsylvania up to Erie County, NY. The project also calls for 3 miles of new pipeline further up, in Niagara County, along with a new compressor station in the Town of Pendleton (see NFG’s Marcellus Pipeline from NWPA to NY Hits Resistence). In July 2016, FERC issued a favorable Environmental Assessment, paving the path for full approval (see NFG’s Northern Access Pipeline Gets Favorable FERC Review). NFG had hoped to have the project done and in-service by November of this year. However, due to foot-dragging by FERC, NFG recently announced the project would get delayed (see FERC Delay Pushes Back NFG’s Northern Access Pipeline Project). Perhaps that announcement was premature? On Friday, FERC approved the project and granted NFG their certificate to build it, although NFG is still saying the new/delayed schedule is the schedule they will stick to in building it…
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SWEPI Auctioning 189K PA/NY Conventional Acres, 1,500 Active Wells

SWEPI, formerly known as Shell Western E&P Inc., is the North American land-based drilling arm of giant Royal Dutch Shell. SWEPI has an active drilling program in the Marcellus/Utica region. Some of that active program has traditionally been in shallow, or conventional (not shale) drilling. Using a broker, SWEPI has put up a mammoth 189,000 acres of its conventional/shallow leases and wells for sale by auction. The leases and some 1,500 active oil and gas wells are located in Forest, Elk, McKean, and Warren counties in Pennsylvania, and Cattaraugus County in New York. The sale includes shallow rights (not shale rights) only. SWEPI claims there are another 10,000 potential well locations. Here’s the details…
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Seneca Resources & IOG Extend JV to Drill More Wells in PA

Seneca ResourcesIn December MDN told you that Seneca Resources (a wholly owned subsidiary of National Fuel Gas Company) had cut a deal with energy investor IOG Capital to essentially fund Seneca’s Marcellus drilling program in Elk, McKean and Cameron counties in north-central Pennsylvania (see Seneca Res. Cuts Deal with IOG Capital to Fund Up to 80 PA Wells). The deal was for IOG to fund development for an initial 75 wells. So far 39 of the 75 wells have been drilled. Yesterday Seneca announced that their deal with IOG has been revised and extended. The new total well count that IOG will participate in is 82. The royalty split has also been revised with Seneca’s royalty in 36 of the wells going down–from 10% to 7.5%. Here’s the full details on this somewhat complicated arrangement that allows Seneca to keep on drilling…
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Mr. Causer Goes to Washington – To Talk About PA Pipelines

Mr. Smith Goes to WashingtonPennsylvania State Rep. Martin Causer (R-Turtlepoint) testified before the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture in Washington, DC on Wednesday, April 13. Causer was there to tell the House Agriculture Committee that new pipelines are desperately needed in the farm country he represents. We have a copy of Rep. Causer’s masterful testimony below…
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Seneca Res. Cuts Deal with IOG Capital to Fund Up to 80 PA Wells

Art of the DealYesterday National Fuel Gas Company, the utility giant headquartered in Buffalo, NY and parent of Marcellus driller Seneca Resources, announced that Seneca has partnered up with energy investor IOG Capital to essentially fund Seneca’s Marcellus drilling program in Elk, McKean and Cameron counties in north-central Pennsylvania. The outlines of the deal are thus: IOG will provide the cash and Seneca will do the drilling on up to 80 Marcellus wells on 10,500 acres in the Clermont/Rich Valley area of PA. IOG will get an 80% working interest in the wells. In addition to drilling the wells, National Fuel’s midstream subsidiary will connect the wells and get the gas to market. What this deal means is that Marcellus drilling activity in the Clermont/Rich Valley area will pick up over the few years. Here’s the details of this somewhat complicated deal…
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EPA Fines PA Gas Plants for Accidents that Haven’t Yet Happened

Minority ReportIt’s something straight out of the Tom Cruise movie Minority Report. The federal Environmental Protection Agency has fined the owner of five Pennsylvania natural gas processing plants and one West Virginia plant (six plants total) $50,221 for spills and leaks at the plants–that never happened. The EPA says Elkhorn Gas Processing hasn’t done enough to prevent such incidents from potentially happening, and therefore the EPA is shaking them down and making them pay for possible future violations. Perhaps it’s more like The Godfather than the Minority Report? Talk about an abuse of power! Do you need any further evidence that the Obama EPA is totally out of control?…
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PA Severance Tax Will End Worthy Projects in Drilling Communities

The McKean County, PA Board of Commissioners have just approved spending $42,750 to convert space over the Goodwill store in Kane, PA into four one-bedroom apartments to be used to house “transition age youth”–poor kids with no place to live. The money comes from a housing fund established by (yep) the Marcellus Shale impact fee. If PA’s Republican legislature caves and adopts newly-elected Gov. Tom Wolf’s nutball idea of a 5% severance tax, the impact fee will be gone and projects like this will disappear along with it. Which is why communities impacted by Marcellus drilling are universally opposed to changing from an impact fee to a severance tax–because they will get shafted. Right now, 60% of the fee stays local, for projects like this one. With a severance tax, all money goes to Harrisburg and slips through the fingers of greedy politicians–into the back pocket of teacher’s unions, mostly…
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Leasing Activity Picks Up in Northern PA – for Utica!

One of the most-drilled Marcellus Shale counties in Pennsylvania has been Tioga County–just about dead center (horizontally) and at the top (vertically) of the state, sharing a boarder with New York State. Four to five years ago there was a leasing frenzy in Tioga and Potter counties, followed by a lot of drilling in Tioga and a little bit of drilling in Potter. Leasing activity all but stopped–then something really interesting happened. Recently Shell reported drilling 6 Utica Shale wells in Tioga County, the first two of which have turned in truly impressive production rates (see Shell Drills 2 Successful Utica Wells in NEPA Marcellusland). Apparently because of Shell’s success, leasing activity in Tioga and Potter (and even in McKean County) has once again picked up the pace–this time for leases to drill Utica wells…
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Marcellus Drilling Helps Local Elk Population Flourish

One of the potential problems raised by those who oppose shale drilling is how it impacts wildlife. They maintain when you carve up forests with clear spots for drill pads, and carve up pathways for pipelines, and have trucks traveling in and out around the clock, it damages the wildlife (see USGS Study: Marcellus Drilling Fragmenting Forests in PA. Who’s not for being kind to the wild critters around us? At MDN HQ we faithfully maintain our bird feeder in the front yard and go out of our way to avoid hitting squirrels (just so you know our enviro creds). It certainly sounds reasonable that “fragmenting” forests may impact wild species. So let’s have a look at a real example. How about the wild elk that roam around Elk, McKean and Cameron counties in northcentral Pennsylvania? In 2008, at the dawn of the shale revolution in PA when there were no wells, there were about 500 wild elk roaming those three counties. Today, with more than 100 wells drilled in those three counties, the elk population has almost doubled. Say what? Yep–drilling has helped the local wildlife in northcentral PA…
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Seneca No Longer Interested in Buying Sewer Water for Fracking

MDN told you 4 1/2 (!) years ago about a plan by the Kane Borough Sewer Authority in McKean County, PA to sell sewer effluent to Seneca Resources for drilling gas wells. Seneca is the oil and gas drilling division of National Fuel Gas Company (see Kane Borough Sewer Authority Making Money from Selling Effluent to Marcellus Shale Driller). Effluent is the treated water discharged from sewage treatment plants. In an update to that story, it seems Seneca and other drillers are no longer interested in Kane’s sewer water…
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