Monday, September 20, 2010

Marcellus Shale Natural Gas Pipeline

MANSFIELD, Pa. Just as truck-laden highways transport goods and supplies to and from marketing centers, the natural-gas industry relies on a network of pipelines, compression stations and storage areas to get its product from the producing wells to the market.
Pipeline siting and regulation were the topics at two meetings sponsored by Penn State Cooperative Extension, each drawing a crowd of more than 50 people to hear presentations by pipeline company representatives as well as members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Pipelines to transport and distribute natural gas have crisscrossed the nation for more than 50 years. The Tennessee Gas Pipeline, a 14,000-mile segment of ElPaso Corp. s 42,000 miles of interstate pipeline, has been an extensive part of this network and is being used to move the gas harvested from the rich Marcellus shale deposits that lie beneath several states in the Northeast.
We re a pipeline company, said Mark Hamarich, ElPaso Corp. representative and project manager for the Tennessee Gas Pipeline. Our business is to transport natural gas.
As natural gas production increases, supply-line space is at a premium, creating a need to expand capacity. Currently, ElPaso Corp., through its Tennessee Gas subsidiary, maintains a 24-inch line and is working to improve and expand the pipeline infrastructure.
The 300-line project is aimed at the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania and will increase capacity by installing seven looping segments totaling 127 miles of 30-inch pipeline. The project includes installation of two additional compression stations and upgrades to existing compressor stations.
We re proposing to build loop lines adjacent to the existing line, Hamarich said. Those lines are like passing lanes on the highway. They allow for more gas to pass through the system.
The new pipeline that would be installed can, in most circumstances, be contained within the current pipeline right of way. However, the company is seeking an additional 25 feet of right of way for the pipeline plus 100 feet of work space.
Pipeline representatives are actively seeking permission from landowners for the additional right of way, and are carefully following all state and federal guidelines, according to Hannarich.
This work space right of way is temporary and will revert back to the land owner when the project is complete, he said.
The right of way, on the other hand, will extend to the life of the pipeline, making the easement 75 feet wide.
The depth of the pipeline varies from 2 feet in solid rock, to 3 feet in other areas. In agricultural areas where deep tillage may occur, the pipeline can be buried up to 5 feet deep.
According to Hamarich, land-moving practices are carefully monitored to separate the top soil from the subsoil and to follow all Department of Environmental Protection erosion control and sedimentation guidelines and inspections.
Agricultural land, wetlands, water bodies and streams, cemeteries are all things we deal with, said Hamarich, There s a lot of investigating that goes into this.
After construction, the land is re-seeded and restored.
Crop damages are paid according to the market value of the specific crop.
We ll work with the farmers to make sure the crop land is brought back, Hamarich said.
As long as the pipeline is in existence, the pipeline company will maintain the right of way to keep the area clear of trees that might damage the pipeline itself.
If a right of way cannot be negotiated, the pipeline company is authorized to employ eminent domain to secure the necessary land rights, although this is used as a last resort.
Once the pipeline is in place, the biggest challenge facing the pipeline companies is to prevent damages.
Do not dig near the pipeline, Hamarich said. Our biggest challenge is to control excavation near a pipeline.
A second project proposed by ElPasso Corp., that has yet to receive federal approval, is the Northeast upgrade project, which will substantially increase capacity from Pennsylvania s 300 line to New Jersey. That project is now in the proposal stages, with anticipated start date of spring 2011.
When both the 300-line project and the northeast upgrade are completed, pipeline capacity will be increased by 1 billion cubic feet.
All interstate pipelines are under the watchful eye of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
FERC regulates interstate pipelines, said Berne Mosley, deputy director with the Office of Energy Projects.
There are many other pipelines that, because they do not cross state lines or do not tap into multistate pipelines, do not fall under federal regulation. These lines include lateral lines that extend from the well head to the collection site, gathering lines that form a network between the well sites, in-state transmission lines and smaller distribution lines.
Those are monitored and regulated within the state, Mosley said.
Pipeline companies must follow strict procedures when proposing a new project or when updating infrastructure. All applications are subject to internal review for environmental impact and nonenvironmental considerations, according to FERC representatives.
Nonenvironmental considerations include engineering specifications, costs and conditions of service, and other policies related to the completion of the project.
The environmental review takes a close look at biological, cultural and socioeconomic impacts. It also reviews land use, soil and geologic structures, air and noise impacts, and system alternatives.
Lauren O Donnell, director of FERC s Division of Gas Environment and Engineering, oversees the environmental side of the equation.
Companies are required to submit to us an environmental report, she said. Members of the staff read the report and send letters back asking for clarifications. All of the information is available for public review.
After projects are FERC approved, companies can move ahead with the process. In Pennsylvania, that means moving more of the natural gas recovered from the Marcellus shale deposits to market.
Things are going great guns in Pennsylvania. People here understand the value and are eager to see it developed, Mosley said.

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