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Columbia gets FERC go-ahead for partial service on Mountaineer XPress gas project

Highlights

Signoff covers 119 miles, new compression to serve Antero

Project moves West Virginia gas south to points on Columbia Gulf

Washington — TransCanada's Columbia Gas Transmission on Wednesday won the go-ahead from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to place into service approximately 119 miles of the 2.7-Bcf/d Mountaineer Xpress pipeline project in West Virginia along with additional compression.

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The facilities appear to allow transmission service on about 700,000 Dt/d of firm capacity to serve producer Antero Resources, based on Columbia's requests at FERC.

The project is designed to transport growing production from the Marcellus and Utica shales to downstream markets at Columbia's TCO Pool and farther south to pooling points on Columbia Gulf Transmission. Along with Columbia Gulf's Gulf XPress project, the expansion is projected to provide incremental capacity between the US Northeast and the Gulf Coast.

JANUARY 18 START

A notice from Columbia said the approval will allow nominations for Mountaineer XPress facilities to begin for the timely cycle for Friday, January 18. The impact to production, pricing and downstream flows is expected to be muted as the approval covers only a portion of Mountaineer's 2.7-Bcf/d capacity.

The bulk of the approval authorizes Antero to commence 700 MMcf/d of its firm contracts on Mountaineer, with a primary receipt point from the Sherwood processing complex, which is running close to capacity. This means that Mountaineer XPress volumes sourced from Sherwood would likely come at the expense of Sherwood deliveries to other pipelines like Rover Pipeline, according to S&P Global Platts Analytics. The Sherwood processing complex already delivers approximately 70% of its outlet volumes to Columbia Gas via multiple interconnects.

The overall project encompasses about 165 miles of greenfield pipe in West Virginia along with three compressor stations, upgrades to three existing compressor stations and construction of smaller pipeline segment.

The FERC signoff Wednesday covered 113 miles of the MXP-100 pipeline in West Virginia, along with about 6 miles of its Sherwood Lateral in West Virginia. It also entails the two Solar Taurus 60 compressor units at the project's Sherwood Compressor Station, additional compression at the Lone Oak and Ceredo stations and appurtenant facilities in West Virginia.

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In an effort to provide an additional 100,000 Dt/d of contracted firm service to Greylock Production, Columbia had also sought FERC's signoff by January 15 on two Solar Mars 100 units at the Sherwood station. The signoff Wednesday does not appear to include those units.

The project's Elk River compressor station entered service in October.

RESTORATION, SLIPS

The company previously hoped to have the project in service in late 2018. Work on testing, mainline construction and tie-ins continues on portions of the remaining 50 miles of pipeline, and trouble with erosion controls and land slips has added to the need for restoration.

In signing off on the in-service, Rich McGuire, director of FERC's Division of Gas - Environment and Engineering, said staff have found rehabilitation and restoration are "generally proceeding satisfactorily," and noted Columbia's commitments to completing restoration in 2019.

Columbia has promised to completely restore 155 land slips, he noted. As of December 29, Columbia report restoration was about 65% complete on construction spreads 3-8 of the project.

In November, Columbia agreed to pay West Virginia regulators $122,350 in fines for environmental violations, including failures to install erosion control devices, allowing sediment-laden water to enter waterways and failing to protect fill slopes.

The related Gulf Xpress Project has a pending request for in service, filed January 7, covering four compressor stations, in Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee.

-- Maya Weber, maya.weber@spglobal.com

-- John McManus, john.mcmanus@spglobal.com

-- Grant Gunter, grant. gunter@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Jennifer Pedrick, newsdesk@spglobal.com