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FERC approves gas projects ahead of cutoff: Update

3 Feb 2017, 10.41 pm GMT

FERC approves gas projects ahead of cutoff: Update

Adds FERC's approval of the Atlantic Sunrise natural gas pipeline project.

Washington, 3 February (Argus) — The US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has approved the $4bn Rover natural gas pipeline, the $3bn Atlantic Sunrise pipeline and two smaller pipelines in a last-minute push to authorize projects before it loses its ability to act.

FERC after today will temporarily be unable to approve new pipelines because agency member Norman Bay is resigning, which will leave FERC one commissioner short of a required three-member quorum. It could take months for the US Senate to confirm whomever President Donald Trump names as Bay's replacement, prompting a rush to get pipelines approvals out the door by the end of the day.

The 3.1 Bcf/d (89mn m3/d) Rover pipeline would transport Marcellus and Utica shale gas from processing plants in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio to a natural gas hub in western Ohio. The 511-mile (822km) pipeline would also extend into southern Michigan for eventual delivery to the Union gas hub in Ontario, Canada.

FERC approved the pipeline but declined to issue its developers "blanket" approval because of their "intentional demolition" of a house near the pipeline's route with no prior notice. The blanket approval would have removed the need to secure case-by-case approvals during construction, but FERC said the demolition raised concerns about compliance with environmental rules.

Energy Transfer Partners, which is developing the Rover pipeline, did not respond for comment.

The 1.7 Bcf/d Atlantic Sunrise pipeline involved modifications to the Transcontinental Gas mainline that would allow the pipeline to deliver more Marcellus shale gas produced in Pennsylvania to markets, alleviating bottlenecks in the state. FERC's approval of that project is subject to a few conditions to minimize impacts on landowners.

Natural gas producers and industry groups have urged FERC to act today on other major gas pipelines that would relieve pipeline bottlenecks that have depressed prices in Appalachian gas production areas. That includes the 1.5 Bcf/d Nexus pipeline and the 500mn cf/d Northern Access pipeline.

FERC yesterday separately authorized Tennessee Gas pipeline to move forward with a $144mn project that would install looping pipeline and modify compressors to add 130mn cf/d of firm capacity on its 300 Line in Pennsylvania. FERC also approved Dominion Carolina's request to install a pipeline that will provide 88mn cf/d of firm capacity to customers in South Carolina.

Pipeline critics have seized upon the vacancy at FERC to argue against new projects. Senators Edward Markey (D-Massachusetts) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) on 1 February said the absence of a quorum should prompt the agency to rescind its authorization of Spectra Energy's 128mn cf/d Atlantic Bridge pipeline. They said the lack of a quorum would prevent FERC from considering an appeal.

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