FERC granted Energy Transfer Partners LP's Rover Pipeline LLC a certificate to build the 511-mile natural gas pipeline from Appalachia to the Midwest, but the commission denied a blanket certificate and recommended further staff investigation based on the destruction of a historic house near the proposed route.
FERC issued a Natural Gas Act certificate for the approximately $4.1 billion proposed Rover pipeline and connected gas transportation projects in an order issued late Feb. 2. The projects are designed to provide 3,250,000 Dth/d of firm service from the Appalachian supply area to a proposed interconnection with Vector Pipeline LP. FERC gave the developers three years to put the projects in service.
“We find that Rover has sufficiently demonstrated that there is market demand for the project," FERC wrote in the order. "Rover has entered into long-term, firm precedent agreements with nine producers for 3,100,000 Dth/d of firm transportation service, approximately 95 percent of the system’s capacity." The shippers include Antero Resources Corp., Range Resources - Appalachia, Rice Energy Marketing LLC, EdgeMarc Energy Holdings LLC and SWN Energy Services Co. LLC, which FERC said had asked the commission to quickly approve Rover's application.
However, FERC denied Rover's request for a blanket certificate for the pipeline project. Without the blanket certificate, Rover will need separate FERC approvals for different construction stages.
"Because of Rover’s intentional demolition of a house that was identified as eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places and within the visual area of potential effects of the project ... we deny Rover's request for a blanket certificate under Part 157, Subpart F of the commission’s regulations to perform certain routine construction activities and operations," FERC said.
The commission said Rover wrecked the house despite commission staff flagging the house as a point of concern early in the commission's prefiling review process for the project. In addition to requirements for ongoing consultations with the Ohio State Historic Preservation Office and the U.S. Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, FERC said, "We have referred this matter to the Office of Enforcement for further investigation and action, as appropriate."
FERC also included environmental and construction conditions. Most were typical of the conditions attached to certificate orders. Among the conditions, construction cannot begin until Rover files a final migratory bird conservation plan.
The FERC order pushed forward one of two major pending pipeline projects aimed at giving Marcellus and Utica gas more outlets to the west. As of the morning of Feb. 3, Spectra Energy Corp and DTE Energy Co.'s NEXUS pipeline project was still waiting for approval, but the developers have asked for approval by the end of the day.
Energy analysts noted that if Rover had not received a FERC permit, it might have been delayed by a year due to seasonal constraints on construction. Rob Rains and Tim VandenBerg of Washington Analysis LLC, observing that Rover projected the in-service date for November, said this might slip to the second quarter of 2018, partly due to the need to obtain other permits. In a press release issued later Feb. 3, Energy Transfer said Rover will still be able to hit in-service goals of July for the first phase and November for the second phase.
In a Feb. 3 alert on the Rover pipeline and other projects, FBR & Co. said FERC is expected to issue a delegation order "expanding the staff’s ability to carry on some business without commissioners."
The Rover project received a satisfactory environmental review from FERC staff in July 2016. Rover Pipeline, among several other pipeline developers, had pushed FERC for project approval before former FERC Chairman Norman Bay leaves the commission Feb. 3, which will mean there are only two commissioners left out of five spots, too few to vote on orders for natural gas pipeline projects and rulemaking.
The Rover project would include three mainlines, nine supply laterals and 10 new compressor stations. The laterals will move gas from receipt points in Marcellus and Utica shale production areas in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio to delivery points along two mainlines running to the Midwest Hub in Defiance County, Ohio. From there, a market segment mainline will run north to the Vector system in Michigan.
The FERC order also approved backhaul projects to modify the systems of Panhandle Eastern Pipe Line Co. LP and Trunkline Gas Co. LLC. Rover has signed precedent agreements for 750,000 Dth/d of east-to-west firm transportation service on Panhandle and the same amount of north-to-south service on Trunkline. Rover has also signed an agreement with Vector and a Canadian affiliate for up to 950,000 Dth/d of firm transportation service with delivery into Michigan and to the Union Gas Ltd. Dawn Hub in Ontario. (FERC dockets CP15-93, CP15-94, CP15-96)