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FERC staff issue favorable review of 275-MMcf/d Columbia Gas expansion

Columbia Gas Transmission LLC received a positive environmental review from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the Buckeye XPress expansion project in Ohio and West Virginia designed to increase firm natural gas transportation capacity on Columbia's system by 275 MMcf/d.

In a May 20 environmental assessment, FERC staff concluded the proposed project would not lead to significant environmental impacts as long as the pipeline takes appropriate mitigation measures.

Columbia Gas filed an abbreviated application for the Buckeye XPress project in March 2018 with an estimated cost of $709 million. The TC Energy Corp. subsidiary said the project is needed to replace over 60 miles of aged pipelines to "increase reliability and safety of its existing system" and upsize the line from 20-inch or 24-inch-diameter to 36-inch-diameter, according to the FERC document.

Shortly after the application, one of the largest holders of firm gas transportation capacity on the Columbia Gas system, Range Resources-Appalachia LLC, asked FERC to deny Columbia Gas' request or direct the company to accept the producer's offer to relinquish some of its gas transportation capacity on Columbia Gas' 1.5-Bcf/d Leach XPress project. Range said part of the Leach XPress capacity is identical to the proposed Buckeye XPress capacity, and "without the LXP project, the BXP project is not possible or viable." The Buckeye XPress project would make the Leach XPress capacity less valuable by installing "unneeded capacity" in the same market at a lower transportation rate, Range said. FERC authorized the Leach XPress project in December 2017.

In the environmental review, FERC staff said it did "not consider Range's turnback offer as a viable system alternative to the BXP." Staff did look at an alternative project that would use replacement pipeline of the same diameter instead of enlarging the pipeline, but it said neither Columbia Gas' original proposal nor the alternative would significantly affect the environment, and the "alternative would not meet the project's stated purpose of providing an additional 275 MMcf/d of capacity to Columbia's system."

The Buckeye XPress project would consist of installing about 66 miles of new 36-inch-diameter pipeline and abandoning about 60 miles of 20-inch and 24-inch-diameter pipeline. The project would take place mostly in Ohio, with some work in West Virginia. (FERC docket CP18-137)