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FERC Asked Once More to OK Rover HDDs, Energy Transfer Cites Project Schedule

Energy Transfer Partners LP on Wednesday again asked FERC to allow it to resume horizontal directional drilling (HDD) at remaining sites along its highly anticipated 3.25 Bcf/d Rover Pipeline Project in Appalachia.

ETP previously told the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that it was bringing in HDD specialists GeoEngineers Inc. to help prevent future drilling fluid spills on the project. The company has been submitting technical analyses from the firm for the uncompleted Rover HDD sites since May.

In the latest request, ETP asked FERC to allow it to resume HDD work at all sites analyzed so far, echoing earlier requests to resume drilling work at various sites, including creek crossings for the Clarington and Seneca laterals.

"Rover respectfully requests that FERC allow Rover to continue HDD operations at locations for which reports have been submitted to date,” ETP said. “Meeting Rover's project schedule is critical to the producers in the region and the many customers across the United States that are making plans and are relying on gas deliveries.”

In May, FERC ordered ETP to halt all new HDD work on its 710-mile greenfield mega-project after reports of a 2 million gallon drilling fluid spill at a site near the Tuscarawas River in Stark County, OH. The order, affecting important uncompleted facilities for the project, including the Clarington Lateral, spurred market speculation that the project would be delayed.

The Commission has since said it is investigating the Tuscarawas spill after test results indicated the presence of diesel fuel in the drilling mud. Using diesel in HDD drilling fluid would be a violation Rover's FERC certificate.

ETP has stuck to a tight schedule for its producer-backed Appalachian takeaway project, which would connect producing areas of Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania to interconnects with the Midwest Hub in Defiance, OH, as well as the Vector Pipeline in Michigan and the Dawn Hub in Ontario.

Phase 1 service to Defiance was originally scheduled to start in July, with the rest of the project online by November. But after FERC denied its request to finish HDD crossings for the Clarington and Seneca laterals, ETP revised its schedule to target partial Phase 1 start-up in early July, with the rest of Phase 1 coming online within 60 days.

Genscape Inc. said in a Wednesday note to clients it doesn't expect to see Rover's initial start-up until early August, with the rest of Phase 1 pushed back to September.

The initial service would include the Supply Connector A, Mainline A and Cadiz Lateral components of the project and would add about 850 MMcf/d, according to Genscape. The remainder of Phase 1 -- including the Clarington, Seneca and Berne laterals -- would add another 775 MMcf/d, the analyst estimated.

Genscape expects Phase 2 of Rover -- affecting the rest of the project, including the Supply Connector B and Mainline B segments -- to come online in January, not in November as ETP has stated.

"Please note that this assumes that Rover will receive permission from FERC to resume HDD work within a reasonable timeframe -- especially the Captina Creek crossing" for the Clarington Lateral, "which is required for Phase 1 full service," said Genscape analysts. "The investigation into the diesel fuel contamination is not expected to affect non-HDD construction and may not affect the HDD analysis currently underway" by J.D. Hair & Associates, the third-party contractor FERC selected to investigate the Tuscarawas spill.

In a status report filed June 22 that covers the period from June 3-9, ETP told FERC it had completed 42.6% (171.33 miles) of the trenching, 37.3% (196.76 miles) of the pipe laying and 36% (194.77 miles) of the welding needed for the overall project.

"Despite the recent leaps forward in reported construction completed percentage, we do not expect partial/interim service for Energy Transfer's Rover pipeline to begin operations in July 2017," Genscape analysts said. "Of note: hydrostatic testing can only begin once the pipe has been fully welded together and lowered in. We assume hydrotesting of a pipeline project takes about two weeks based off of other projects.

"After hydrotesting and drying, Rover will then need to build line pack before it can enter service. We expect to see line pack receipts in late July, with the receipt-and-delivery service beginning in August."

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