Washington — Pennsylvania's social-distancing orders prompted a temporary halt to construction of several natural gas pipeline projects in the state, but some developers were working to secure waivers to allow more work to continue.
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The state, with its large shale deposits, also is home to a number of ongoing midstream projects meant to move gas to market.
After Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf late last week ordered all non-life-sustaining businesses to close, Energy Transfer was halting new construction on the Mariner East 2 project, but has since gained permission for limited activity, such as maintaining the right-of-way and work sites, and securing, stabilizing, and moving equipment.
FURTHER WAIVER REQUESTS
One outstanding question is whether the Pennsylvania projects will secure more waivers to allow construction projects to advance.
Energy Transfer spokeswoman Vicki Granado said Wednesday in an email that the company has made several requests to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development "related to construction activities we believe have the potential to adversely impact the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania if completely halted for an extended amount of time."
Energy Transfer's Mariner East 2 and ME2X are primarily intended to ship propane and butane produced in the Marcellus and Utica shales to the Marcus Hook export terminal. The projects have faced regulatory delays although a scaled-back version of ME2 began service in late 2018, with expansion work still underway.
Shell has also paused work on its large-scale plastic and petrochemical facility in Beaver County.
Pipeline facilities already in service in the state have been deemed to be life-sustaining activities that can keep operating. Energy Transfer said it is in the process of resuming limited allowed activities while adhering to the state-ordered protocols to ensure safety of workers and the surrounding community.
Other Pennsylvania gas projects paused after Wolf's order included the Pennsylvania portion of Dominion Energy's 150 MMcf/d West Loop Project and the Towanda Liquefaction and Storage Facility in Bradford County, designed for truck-loaded LNG.
Another project in the state is National Fuel Gas Supply's 205 MMcf/d Empire North pipeline expansion, which entails about 53,000 hp of added compression.
National Fuel spokeswoman Karen Merkel field staff have been cut in half, with 50% of the workforce working on opposite weeks to lessen exposure. When tasks require two or more workers in close proximity, proper personal protection equipment is required, she said.
"To date, most tasks have been able to be accomplished while abiding by social distancing requirements," she said, adding at this time the virus "has not had a material impact on the project schedule."
As of 8 pm ET Wednesday, 10 counties in Pennsylvania are under stay-at-home orders: Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Erie, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, and Philadelphia.
RUMBLINGS IN FERC DOCKETS
In the dockets at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, there have been some calls from pipeline critics for the regulators to stop work on certain projects to avoid spreading the virus. Those projects included Enbridge's compressor station in Weymouth, Massachusetts, and the Mountain Valley Pipeline project construction in Virginia.
Enbridge spokesman Michael Barnes said, regarding Weymouth, "we are currently continuing with construction following the latest guidance provided by local, federal, and international public health and government authorities."
"All contractors working on our projects must have a project safety plan and a pandemic plan in place for all project sites and for all contractors and subcontractors under their control," he added.
MVP told FERC Wednesday that Virginia and West Virginia orders do not affect MVP activities, which have been focused on erosion and sediment-control measures.
Asked about its Del-Mar Energy Pathway project, Chesapeake Utilities noted that the project was not affected under Delaware and Maryland orders that refer to federal guidelines that deem the natural gas sector to be critical in nature.
Asked about Tennessee Gas Pipeline's 261 Upgrade Projects in Connecticut and Massachusetts, a Kinder Morgan spokeswoman pointed to the company's practice at its construction sites of encouraging hygiene as well as "social distancing by reducing group sizes for meetings and encouraging limited exposure to one another."