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Before Rover HDD Restart, FERC Wants More Details

FERC on Tuesday provided Rover Pipeline LLC with an updated list of measures the company would need to take before resuming horizontal directional drilling (HDD) activities for the 710-mile, 3.25 Bcf/d natural gas transmission project.

In a filing to the project docket, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission asked Rover to make modifications to its implementation plans for the remaining HDDs on the project and to provide detailed information related to HDD oversight [CP15-93].

Among other changes, FERC asked Rover to incorporate additional recommendations from J.D. Hair & Associates Inc., the engineering firm FERC selected to review Rover's handling of an April drilling fluids spill near the Tuscarawas River in Ohio. In a report released in late July, J.D. Hair said a lack of records prevented a more thorough assessment of the Tuscarawas HDD.

As a result of the spill, estimated to have released 2 million gallons of drilling mud into a nearby wetland, Rover has been under a stop-work on new HDDs, which has delayed the highly anticipated $4.2 billion Appalachian takeaway project.

To address FERC’s concerns, Rover hired GeoEngineers Inc. to provide input on the project's remaining HDDs. Rover also filed a response to J.D. Hair's report and a plan to implement the firm’s recommendations.

J.D. Hair peer reviewed GeoEngineers' recommendations for the Rover HDDs, making a few supplemental recommendations enclosed in Tuesday's letter from FERC. Rover was asked by FERC to incorporate these recommendations, make other modifications to its HDD plans and provide further detailed information relating to the execution and oversight of the remaining HDDs.

"Upon receipt of your response, we will be able to consider your request to begin resumption of HDD activities at select locations," FERC wrote.

One of those locations is likely to be Captina Creek, which has stalled Rover's completion of the Clarington Lateral. The Clarington Lateral is part of Phase 1B, which was expected to be  completed by July. The management team of Rover backer Energy Transfer Partners LP (ETP) said during a recent conference call it expects to complete the Captina Creek HDD in roughly 40 days once FERC lifts the HDD moratorium.

Meanwhile, Rover is wrapping up work on Phase 1A -- connecting the Cadiz Lateral in eastern Ohio to the Midwest Hub in Defiance, OH -- and has asked FERC to authorize service by next week (Aug. 31).

Analysts have estimated that Phase 1A would add about 211 MMcf/d of incremental capacity on the project, with Phase 1B bumping that total up to 1.35 Bcf/d. The rest of the Rover project is on track for completion by late November or early December, ETP management has said.

FERC's requirements detailed Tuesday include:

  • Incorporating J.D. Hair supplemental recommendations;
  • Revising Rover's HDD proposals to include using a downhole annular pressure tool during all drilling phases;
  • Providing a hydrofracture analysis for HDDs that would drill through unconsolidated materials for most of the crossing;
  • Providing names/contact information/qualifications for all HDD inspectors employed and what HDDs they would oversee;
  • Providing names/qualifications of drilling fluid specialists/engineers retained for the remaining HDDs;
  • Providing weekly HDD monitoring reports describing daily activities/observations;
  • Describing security measures in place to prevent unauthorized access to HDD workspaces; and
  • Detailing a list of approved nonhazardous, nontoxic drilling fluid additives for contractors to select from when developing HDDs.

In June, FERC launched an enforcement investigation to look into test results that showed diesel fuel in the drilling mud at the Tuscarawas site. Rover has since said the diesel may have been a result of "sabotage" by project opponents.

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