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1.5-Bcf/d Leach XPress pipeline expansion cleared for Jan. 1, 2018, start

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Dec. 28 granted Columbia Gas Transmission LLC authorization to begin service Jan. 1, 2018, on a 1.5-Bcf/d natural gas pipeline expansion project that will carry Appalachian gas.

The estimated $1.52 billion Leach XPress project will allow Columbia Gas, a TransCanada Corp. subsidiary, to deliver gas supplies to markets in Ohio and pooling points on Columbia Gas' system. (FERC docket CP15-514)

Once in service, Leach XPress is expected to provide the largest instantaneous capacity boost in the Northeast region since the start of the shale boom. The 160-mile pipeline was initially intended to enter service Nov. 1 but permitting, weather setbacks and construction hurdles contributed to delays.

Columbia Gulf Transmission LLC's $173.7 million Rayne XPress, which began service in November, will interconnect with Leach XPress and deliver 621,000 Dth/d of firm transportation service to Gulf Coast markets. (FERC docket CP15-539)

The in-service approval for Leach XPress arrived about two weeks after Columbia Gas requested permission to start service Dec. 13. Columbia Gas applied for the project in June 2015 and received a certificate order from the commission Jan. 19, 2017. The project consists of two greenfield pipeline segments, two pipeline loops, three new compressor stations and three additional compressor units at other stations.

The project will add 1.5 Bcf/d of takeaway capacity from southeast Ohio, West Virginia and southwest Pennsylvania west across Ohio and then south to an interconnect with Columbia Gulf in Leach, Ky.

Leach XPress is backed by regional producers, several of which are shippers on Energy Transfer Partners LP's Rover pipeline and other recent expansion projects. Private companies Kaiser Francis Oil Co. and Ascent Resources each have subscribed to 400 MMcf/d of capacity, while Range Resources Corp., Noble Energy Inc. and Gulfport Energy Corp. have subscribed to most of the remaining capacity. Some 100 MMcf/d has not been subscribed under long-term precedent agreement.

Jack Winters is an analyst for S&P Global Platts, which, like S&P Global Market Intelligence, is owned by S&P Global Inc.