The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted a request from Energy Transfer Partners LP's Rover Pipeline LLC to resume horizontal drilling at four locations after the developer submitted a new plan to eliminate spills of drilling fluid in the construction of its up-to-3.25-Bcf/d natural gas pipeline project.
FERC in an Oct. 11 letter order said its staff found that Rover is putting in place protocols recommended as part of the findings of an investigation into spills of drilling fluids and outlined in previous letters. The commission said it had also verified that Rover has provided third-party inspectors to make sure drilling activities do not cause additional spills.
The $4.2 billion Rover project faced delays after a series of construction missteps. FERC in the spring turned its attention to the pipeline project after fluids were spilled at several horizontal drilling sites in Ohio, at least one of which included diesel fuel. Commission staff suspended certain drilling activities in May, which pushed Rover's expected in-service date for part of the project's first phase to the end of summer from July 1.
FERC made clear in its Oct. 11 letter that while it was allowing the company to resume drilling, the order did not affect an ongoing investigation by the commission into the circumstances that led to the spills. "We remind Rover that [FERC's Office of Enforcement] continues to investigate the underlying cause of the drilling mud contamination, and we expect Rover to cooperate fully with [Office of Enforcement] staff with respect to that investigation," the letter said.
The entire Rover pipeline would stretch 511 miles to deliver Appalachian Basin gas to Midwest market hubs and Ontario. The Energy Transfer subsidiary has targeted a mid-September completion date for phase 1, at which time it will ask FERC for approval to enter commercial service. The company anticipated that phase 2 will be ready by the end of November or early December, with full commercial service in January 2018.
FERC has allowed Rover to start service on limited parts of the pipeline. (FERC docket CP15-93)