FERC late on Friday approved Williams Partners' Atlantic Sunrise project, delivering a last minute gift to producers in the Marcellus Shale's northern tier before the Commission is left without a quorum as Commissioner Norman Bay was scheduled to resign at the end of the day.
The commission issued a certificate of public convenience and necessity authorizing Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. (Transco) to move forward with construction and operation of the project. The order came after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on the last day of 2016 issued a long awaited final environmental impact statement. In October, Williams had confirmed that the project would be delayed because of a revision to the Commission's environmental review schedule, which clouded the project in uncertainty at the time.
Friday's decision should come as a relief for producers such as Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. that have battled low regional prices on a lack of takeaway from Northeast Pennsylvania. The company has 1 Bcf/d alone contracted on the system. With approval in hand, the project could begin construction this year, with partial in-service a possibility for the second half of 2017 and full in-service expected by mid-2018.
The roughly $3 billion project would open a path for constrained Marcellus gas to reach markets in the Southeast through the Transco system running along the Atlantic seaboard. The expansion would include 197.7 miles of pipeline composed of about 184 miles of new 30- and 42-inch diameter pipeline for the greenfield CPL North and CPL South segments in Pennsylvania; about 12 miles of new 36- and 42-inch diameter pipeline looping known as Chapman and Unity Loops in Pennsylvania; about three miles of 30-inch diameter replacements in Virginia, and associated compressor stations, equipment and facilities.
FERC's order came amid a flurry of activity and decisions in the days leading up to Bay's resignation, which now leaves it with only two commissioners and the inability to vote on important projects or rules until at least one of the three vacant seats are filled.