Northeast Next to Boon Pending Infrastructure

The northeast’s critical pipeline infrastructure is sparsely strewn about the region and lacks full capability to provide for the region. With its large, and growing population, as well as its proximity to huge domestic reserves like the Marcellus and Utica shale reserves the northeast is poised for pipeline expansion. A Petrochemical whitepaper takes a look at the landscape for 2019 and 2020-2025 and the unique advantages and challenges the region presents. What is certain is that the northeast’s energy potential is yet to be fully realized and a robust natural gas industry could fulfill energy and economic needs for the region.

Northeast advantages:

  • The northeast is strategically located amongst numerous natural gas reserves including the Marcellus and Utica shale reserves and is also relatively close to the Rogersville reserves, sizes of which industry experts are not yet sure.
  • Manufacturing markets are abundant in the Midwest, East Coast, and Canada.
  • The scale of natural gas pipeline and power plant projects will guarantee significant employment opportunities throughout the region.
  • Ethane rejection can be avoided because of the northeast’s capabilities to make use of ethane.

Northeast and Ethane:

When transporting natural gas many pipeline companies and operators must burn off ethane in the gas stream to fuel the resources’ movement towards its destination because of lacking ‘hubs’ to connect supply and demand points. The northeast already has a number of these hubs and a viable ethane market. Industry experts anticipate an increase in the production and monetization of ethane thanks to these capabilities. Additionally, experts see the northeast’s use of ethane as an opportunity to kick start the proliferation of ethane utilities across the nation. The northeast has the chance to benefit from and create an energy trend.

Tri-State Shale Agreement

The Tri-State Shale Agreement, comprised of Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, was extended through 2021 for the states to work together to develop shale and natural gas resources afforded to them through the Marcellus and Utica shale reserves.

With more than 70% of North American plastics customers within a 700-mile radius of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania prioritizing development in this area is key to long-term success. It seems that the states themselves recognize that no matter where central development takes place it will be a boon for the entire region. This agreement has done a good job at pushing actual cooperation and its extension into 2021 is an encouraging sign.

Employment Impact

Recently announced and commissioned projects have opened a magnifying lens on the employment opportunities associated with such large projects. Some of the most recent announcements include a Shell Cracker in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, a PTT Global Chemicals plant in Belmont County, Ohio and a Braskem location in Wood County, West Virginia.

If the aforementioned projects move forward and go on to produce as estimated researchs anticipate 25,000 direct jobs, 45,000 indirect jobs and 32,000 payroll induced jobs. Three projects alone could create 100,000 jobs and nearly $6 billion in payroll.

Since 2010 333 shale – related projects have been announced and cumulatively valued at $202 billion. It is obvious that these undertakings can give any region a facelift.

Infrastructure Updates

To ensure that projects like these are feasible and transportation of natural resources is guaranteed the report acknowledges updates that need to be made to the current transportation methods. Delivered costs are often dependent on location and logistics, which have increased thanks to reliance on rail transportation particularly in the northeast.

To overcome expense challenges the northeast must prioritize pipelines for delivery which should help ease some of the communication, forecasting, and timing troubles industry members have noted.

Conclusion

Northeast natural resources remain largely under-utilized. While the opportunities being realized throughout the other regions of the country are certainly worthy of celebration the energy industry must realize just how fickle some opportunities can be. To advance the United States’ energy agenda the northeast must be utilized like the rest of the country. Critical infrastructure must continue to be a priority for the local, state and federal governments.

Mariner East 2 Enters Operation Before New Year

On December 29th Energy Transfer announced the completion and operationalization of its Mariner East 2 pipeline. The 350 mile pipeline facilitates natural gas liquid transport from the Marcellus and Utica shale reserves in Ohio, West Virginia, and Western Pennsylvania to the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex in Delaware County, PA.

The multi-year project has made significant contributions to the Pennsylvania economy. An impact study by EConsult Solutions estimated more than 9,500 construction jobs per year were created for the project. In Pennsylvania alone the $9.1 billion construction costs resulted in $2.7 billion of associated earnings for communities and locals, according to the study.

Mariner East 2 is the second component in the larger ‘Mariner East’ pipeline system that hopes to help Pennsylvania realize its full energy potential. Mariner East 2 will allow for increased transport capacity, now totaling 345,000 barrels a day in conjunction with the Mariner East 1 line.

For Pennsylvania at large the completion of the Mariner East 2 pipeline signifies a critical step for Pennsylvania towards leading the nation’s push to energy independence. It is precisely projects like the Mariner East 2 pipeline that bring safe and sustainable energy to the state alongside long-term economic prosperity. The Pennsylvania Pipeline Review looks forward to the continued success of natural gas and its critical infrastructure components.

West Goshen Risk Assessment Breakdown PT. 2

Following yesterday’s blog  discussing the outstanding safety and quality of the 12 inch supplemental line temporarily being used to transport natural gas liquids through West Goshen Township focus will be turned to the emergency preparedness Sunoco has committed to in West Goshen and throughout the Mariner East pipeline project.

For those that missed part one, Richard Kuprewicz, President of Accufacts, found that “Sunoco meets and exceeds the requirements of federal pipeline safety regulations. These additional precautions reflect the level of respect that transporting such materials in a HCA should require in a prudent pipeline operation. Accufacts thus concludes that the 12-inch Repurpose Project spanning WGT meets or exceeds the prudent technical approaches commensurate with the safe transportation of HVL.” After reviewing information provided by Sunoco.

Regulatory Oversight:

Pipeline operators and builders are subject to strict regulation. Federal and state entities oversee the construction and operation.

At the federal level the Department of Transportation, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA, a subsection of the Department of Transportation dedicated to pipelines). These agencies ensure interstate pipelines meet all national standards that they themselves set.

As determined by the Pennsylvania legislature, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission is responsible for directing and enforcing safety standards for “pipeline facilities and to regulate safety practices of certificated utilities engaged in the transportation of natural gas and other gas by pipeline.”

The combination of federal and state oversight creates a network of pipeline experts that work together to ensure pipeline companies are held to and encouraged to surpass the highest standard of safety.

Compliance in West Goshen:

After review Kuprewicz found that Sunoco prepared the 12 inch supplemental line in complete compliance with federal and state regulations. This includes installing automatic valve shuts offs, as well as remote and manual capabilities.

Kuprewicz continued, offered: “Since it had been some time since I had reviewed this system, this was discussed in detail with Sunoco as it relates to the 12inch project.  It is my opinion that Sunoco has provided prudent design and installation of safety equipment to assure timely and automatic system shutdown.  The control room operator can also manually initiate an automatic shutdown of the pipeline system at any time.

It is obvious that Sunoco has incorporated layers of protection into their pipeline systems, especially the Mariner East project. The supplemental line benefits from mechanical capabilities as well as human monitoring and input in the unlikely case it be needed.

Like the official Mariner East 1 and Mariner East 2 pipelines the West Goshen supplemental line makes use of the same computer monitoring system that continuously checks for leaks. For maximum safety “The computer system when triggered can automatically and quickly shut down pumps and close mainline isolation valves.  As in the previous Mariner East projects, an independent non-automatic additional leak detection system will be employed across the 12-inch pipeline intended to assist control room personnel in identifying possible lower rate pipeline releases, who then can intervene to initiate pipeline shutdown and isolation.

Conclusion:

Though the Accufacts study focuses on the supplemental line in West Gosh Township the safety measured shared with what will be a temporary line in the Mariner East pipeline system shows the diligence and attention to detail Sunoco has committed to throughout the project to maximize public safety. This fact should not be overlooked.

West Goshen Risk Assessment Breakdown Pt. 1

A risk assessment conducted by Accufacts Inc., using industry sensitive information from Sunoco, was recently released and presented to the public. The study specifically evaluated potential risk from the 12-inch supplemental line being used to move natural gas liquids eastward between portions of Mariner East 2 and Mariner East 2X through West Goshen Township.

The assessment found: “As discussed further below, the 12-inch pipeline meets or exceeds federal pipeline safety regulations for HVL liquid transmission pipeline service.” Reiterating what Sunoco and Energy Transfer have long guaranteed about their natural gas pipelines.

Methodology:

Accufacts specializes in technical and safety evaluation and planning for pipeline siting, design, operation, maintenance, emergency response, and regulatory requirements. The firm has previously been retained to conduct risk assessments in Pennsylvania. Accufacts worked alongside the West Goshen Township legal team and Sunoco to draw up a Nondisclosure Agreement so that corporate specifics about the pipeline could be accounted for in their study. Accufacts admitted that pipeline differences such as diameter factor into risk and deemed industry specifics necessary to complete a thorough assessment.

Supplemental Line Facts:

  • 24 miles of an existing 12-inch line will be used to interconnect a western portion of ME 2 and an eastern segment of ME 2X, which is 16 inches in diameter.
  • End destination is the Sunoco Marcus Hook facility
  • The supplemental line does not use any pump stations
  • Will carry 150 to 160 MB/D of butane or propane liquids

Pipeline Integrity and Safety Measures:

Accufacts notes that though the pipeline was installed in 1937 of seamless Grade B steel the risk of cracking or a loss of pipeline integrity is overstated. In fact, the report provides the following: “As mentioned in previous reports, pipe steel, even pipe steel manufactured over 80 years ago, does not age or wear out like some older materials such as cast or wrought iron that can be “age” sensitive. Pipe steel has essentially an infinite life if properly maintained and operated within its design parameters, and periodically assessed as to its integrity.

Pipe age is a poor risk predictor and many of the nation’s older pipes are more resilient to hydrostatic testing because of safety factors during manufacturing.

Accufacts concluded that Sunoco went above and beyond the standard safety measures required by state and federal regulators through the use of hydrostatic testing and ‘smart pigs’ – devices used to scan the integrity of the inside of pipelines. Additionally, another round of hydrostatic and ‘smart pig’ tests were run for added certainty.

As an added layer of security Sunoco has agreed to convert the manual valve station controlling the supplemental line to be compatible with remote functions and like Mariner East 1 and 2 an automatic pipeline shutdown feature has been incorporated. All of these measures sum to show the township, and broader state of Pennsylvania, that safety and security are the top priority.

Conclusion:

Richard Kuprewicz, the President of Accufacts, signed off on the report officially determining the supplemental line through West Goshen Township to be safe and that “Sunoco meets and exceeds the requirements of federal pipeline safety regulations. These additional precautions reflect the level of respect that transporting such materials in a HCA should require in a prudent pipeline operation. Accufacts thus concludes that the 12-inch Repurpose Project spanning WGT meets or exceeds the prudent technical approaches commensurate with the safe transportation of HVL.

Pipeline Activists’ Frivolous Suit Fell Short

The latest desperate attempt to halt the Mariner East 2 pipeline system through the courts has failed.

In November, seven residents from Chester and Delaware counties filed complaints to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission against Sunoco Pipelines. The complaints claimed that the Mariner East pipelines carrying liquid natural gas presented an intolerable amount of danger and must be stopped through an ‘Interim Emergency Order.’

The courts have finally spoken on the issue, writing:

“In conclusion, Petitioners/Complainants have failed to demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that they have met all four requirements and are entitled to emergency interim relief pursuant to 52 Pa. Code § 3.6.  Petitioners have not satisfied any of the four requirements.  Accordingly, the relief requested will be denied in the Ordering paragraphs below.”

Pipeline opponents were unable to meet any of the four requirements that justify an emergency order. The success (really a lack there of) falls in line with the baseless arguments pipeline opponents have relied on in hopes of stopping an infrastructure project critical to Pennsylvania’s economic success.

MDN Highlights Bias In Latest Hearing and Media

Last week Judge Elizabeth Barnes – the same judge for the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission that shut down construction of the Mariner East 2 project in May, only to have the order overturned by the PUC – presided over a case brought by a few landowners in Chester and Delaware counties as a last-ditch effort to use the legal system to halt the Mariner East project. The complaint at issue has already been upheld by the PUC as a whole, as well as the courts on multiple occasions.

Jim Willis of Marcellus Drilling News was quick to point out the biased reporting by the anti-pipeline funded State Impact Pennsylvania and reminded readers that Judge Barnes previously ruled against the pipeline in a gross display of “arrogance and seizure of power” that she seems likely to abuse again.

Judge Barnes is expected to announce her decision by December 10th or 11th where it will then proceed to the Commission itself later in the month. Barnes’ May decision was unanimously overturned and if she rules again based off of personal bias as opposed to legal foundation, we hope she is overturned again. Judges usually don’t like to be overturned, but judgement clouded by ideology sometimes trumps doing the right thing.

Thanks to Jim Willis for presenting facts around this case. Despite claims by the litigants that first responders have not been trained, Willis reminds readers that Sunoco, as part of their Mariner Emergency Responder Outreach program, trained 2,350 firefights, police offices, and first responders across municipalities on pipeline safety protocol and management.

This case is just a last ditch effort by pipeline opponents to shut down a legally permitted project on faulty arguments.

Professional Risk Assessment Study Provides Accuracy and Relief

Delaware County Council’s pipeline risk assessment study results were featured in a Delco Times article today. These assessments seem to be published with growing frequency though today’s was the work of professionals.

The Delaware County Council should be commended for selecting G2 Integrated Services, a Houston based infrastructure compliance and risk management firm, and adding a professional perspective to a discussion that has had many self-interested voices at play.

What followed was an $115,000 study, months of work, and a 79 page report analyzing the risks of the Adelphia and Mariner East 2. G2 outlined two goals:

  • Determine the risk of fatalities in relation to distance from the pipelines
  • Examine how the risks compare to other common risky scenarios and activities

G2’s findings are eye opening:

  • A person is 20 times more likely to die from a traffic accident
  • A person is 35 times more likely to die from a house fire
  • A person is 20 times more likely to die from a fall from the stairs

In short, the report summates that “the individual fatality risk levels estimated for both the Mariner East 2 pipeline and the Adelphia pipeline fall within a range of other common risk sources.”

Fear mongering around pipelines in Pennsylvania has led to extremely exaggerated interpretations of risks. G2’s study is important in reaffirming that these pipelines have remained committed to safety through surpassing a rigorous state and federal permitting and review process.

Pipeline Opponents’ Desperation Painfully Obvious

Jim Willis, editor and publisher of Marcellus Drilling News, weighed in on the latest complaints filed by 7 pipeline opponents from Chester and Delaware counties. Specifically, Willis calls the effort to halt Mariner East 1 and 2 a ‘Hail Mary’ attempt, insisting the continued “…chutzpah of these people is breathtaking.” He is right. Pipeline opponents have tried every tactic and trick to stop an infrastructure project critical to Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry.

The PA PUC complaints have revealed interesting details about the forces and special interests at play to stop the Mariner East pipeline system.

Michael Bomstein, a local attorney with ties to the Clean Air Council (a longtime pipeline opposition group), is representing the petitioners in their complaints. Bomstein’s son, Alex, is the senior litigator with the Clean Air Council. The two have worked together to file lawsuits against Mariner East in the past and Michael Bomstein has even been recorded discussing the lawsuits against the pipeline.

The petitioners are claiming that because a supplemental line is temporarily being used to bring Mariner East 2 online until construction is completed Sunoco is not in compliance with legal guidelines and their ‘public awareness program’ must be reviewed by the PA PUC.

The PA PUC has already accepted the plan.

Additionally, the supplemental line under question has passed two hydrostatic tests – one in 2017 and another in 2018. The line has been approved for use as Paul Metro, manager of the safety division of the PUC, confirmed “No leaks were discovered in either test. If a pipeline successfully passes a hydrostatic test, it can be assumed that no hazardous defects are present in the tested pipe.”

Pipeline opponents are throwing themselves at any loophole or legal nuance where they can make claims to halt the Mariner East pipeline system without acknowledging well documented facts from state and federal regulators.

Dramatics Take Front Stage at Pipeline Study

A Daily Local News piece recently reported on the latest quantitative risk assessment study used to argue against the Mariner East 2 project. Pipeline opponents inclination to generate their own, cherry-picked studies without any credence to technical expertise or training is a farce.

The study, conducted by Del-Chesco United for Pipeline Safety’s George Alexander, was presented on Monday night at an Uwchlan Township Board of Supervisors meeting. Pipeline opposition groups were able to crowd fund thousands of dollars to secure a three month – license of CANARY, a software used to model pipeline risk, in what is now the third time a group has conducted a meaningless ‘study’ of their own on pipeline safety even though expert studies have shown little concern.

Before results were presented to Supervisors, a member of the presentation team played a dramatic video of Sutton County, Texas’ recent pipeline incident. George Alexander later admitted to trying to model the “…worst case scenario…” Attempts to fear monger could not be more obvious.

Letting a concerned civilian run wild with software reserved for engineers is not going to yield practical or accurate results.

Lastly, pipeline opponents at the presentation hoped to leave with a guarantee from the board to encourage a “state of emergency” be placed on Mariner East 2. Such a request is vastly inappropriate considering the source the foundation that the request is relied.

Pipeline opponents have tried to pursue every angle possible to inaccurately claim that the Mariner East 2 pipeline is unlike all other pipelines and would be unsafe to operate. Little do they know that similar lines run throughout Pennsylvania already. The public should acknowledge regulatory standards and company credentials before seeking a title reserved for natural disasters and drug epidemics.

Pipeline Cybersecurity A Local and National Priority

A memo leaked earlier in the year uncovered that the Department of Energy was considering a bailout for failing nuclear and coal plants, claiming a unique cybersecurity robustness not shared by natural gas pipeline systems.

The American Petroleum Institute (API) recently countered and clarified that cybersecurity remains a top priority for the natural gas industry. Proclaiming coal and nuclear plants to be more secure than their natural gas and oil counterparts is simply untrue.

In fact, many processes and standards are shared amongst natural gas, coal, and nuclear plants. Though it must be acknowledged that natural gas and oil industries uniquely benefit from robust private-public partnerships with the DOE, DHS, and FBI. As a result, cybersecurity is continuously improving thanks to a constant feedback loop from these relationships – exemplified in the layers of electronic and mechanical security measures industry wide.

API’s report indicates that cyberattacks increased 20% between 2014 and 2015; an increase was also recorded from 2015 to 2016. Of these attacks an estimated 1 in 5 specifically targeted the energy sector. The growing role natural gas plays in supporting the United States’ energy grid means pipeline cybersecurity is now a matter of national security.

Because Pennsylvania is home to an ever growing network of natural gas pipelines including Mariner East, Mariner East 2, and the Revolution system efforts should be taken at state levels to contribute to maximizing the security of these pipelines.

Pipeline opposition in Pennsylvania has previously acted to halt the construction and operation of pipelines by tampering with machinery, valve stations, materials, or baiting local wildlife into pipeline construction zones as environmental activist Ellen Gerhart has done. All of these actions unnecessarily increase pipeline vulnerability.

To combat this the Pennsylvania legislature can pass legislation like Senate Bill 652 – introduced to strengthen the consequences of tampering and trespassing on public infrastructure projects. Considering the critical role natural gas systems occupy in the national energy grid a strict punishment for endangering the grid is fully justified.

The abundance of natural resources Pennsylvania has access to will be used for decades to support the state and country’s energy grid as well as push the United States’ global energy dominance. Though Senate Bill 652 lapsed in the Pennsylvania legislature a top priority should be placed on ensuring pipeline security from local threats in the interest of preserving cybersecurity following the coming midterm elections.