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Investigator of Rover Pipeline spills complains of lack of information

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission released a report from an investigation into Rover Pipeline LLC's drilling spills in Ohio that could mean more delays for the 3.25-Bcf/d natural gas pipeline project.

In a July 31 letter, the FERC Office of Energy Projects said before the commission grants Rover Pipeline authorization to resume horizontal directional drilling, the commission must approve the developer's plans to incorporate the recommendations of the third-party investigator, as well as measures to prevent future spills of drilling slurry. FERC staff suspended some drilling activities on May 10, and without full drilling approval, the two phases of the project could see more delays.

Vicki Granado, spokeswoman for Rover Pipeline parent Energy Transfer Partners LP, said Energy Transfer was pleased the investigation was over. It will continue to work with both the commission and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to resolve any outstanding issues.

FERC staff sent the findings of the investigator, J.D. Hair & Associates Inc., to Rover Pipeline. Hair said the project's drilling contractor, Pretec Directional Drilling, appeared to act appropriately based on limited information available to the investigator. However, a lack of detail in daily drilling reports and lack of information on remediation actions meant Hair could not determine if Pretec had adhered to best safety practices before the discovery of a 2-million-gallon spill along the Tuscarawas River in Ohio on April 13, one of at least seven spills that alarmed federal and state regulators. Hair estimated the Tuscarawas River spill probably began three to four days before it was discovered.

The report also said Rover Pipeline and Pretec should have used greater caution while drilling near a high-value wetland.

In July, the FERC Office of Energy Projects had also described a lack of information, saying Rover Pipeline and contractor personnel were not available to commission staff.

Among the recommendations from Hair, the investigator said Rover should space out its horizontal directional drilling and install the pipeline at a greater depth at the Tuscarawas River drill site. The investigator also suggested that due to the lack of information from Rover Pipeline and its contractor, a third-party company should be present at all drill sites to monitor and document activities and full-time inspectors should check for spills of drilling fluids.

The FERC Office of Energy Projects said Rover Pipeline must also complete remediation activities related to drilling fluids that tested positive for diesel fuel.

The FERC Office of Enforcement is separately investigating the presence of diesel fuel in the April 13 spill, a potential certificate violation, and the Rover Pipeline decision to demolish a house eligible for historical status. When the Office of Energy Projects learns more from additional information from Rover Pipeline and Pretec, the Office of Energy Projects said its staff may also send other issues related to the spills to Enforcement for further investigation.

FERC issued a certificate order authorizing the Rover pipeline project on Feb. 3. Since then, the project has run into construction snags and delays, with a July in-service date for the pipeline's first phase recently changed to an expected partial completion by the end of the summer. Rover Pipeline has tried to continue work on the pipeline, using alternative construction methods where it could not drill.

The approximately 511-mile pipeline project will deliver Appalachian Basin gas supplies to East Coast, Gulf Coast, Midwest and Canadian markets. The project will include three mainlines, nine supply laterals and 10 new compressor stations. It will connect to the systems of Energy Transfer subsidiaries Panhandle Eastern Pipe Line Co. LP and Trunkline Gas Co. LLC. (FERC dockets CP15-93, CP15-94, CP15-96)