An explosion that ripped through an Energy Transfer Partners LP (ETP) pipeline in Western Pennsylvania early Monday isn’t likely to disrupt production significantly, as the system serves an older part of the Marcellus Shale where fewer producers operate, compared to other parts of the basin.
Torrential rain and saturated ground likely caused the line to slip and explode, the company said, but the exact cause remains unclear as an investigation is underway.
The pipeline was placed into service last week and is part of the broader Revolution system, which gathers wet gas and includes a 30-inch diameter pipeline and has a capacity of more than 400 MMcf/d. At the time of the blast, the company was in the process of purging and packing the gathering lines that feed ETP’s Revolution Plant in Washington County, where construction was recently completed. The plant would deliver tailgate volumes to affiliate Rover Pipeline’s Burgettstown lateral.
The explosion is unlikely to have any meaningful impacts on the line’s producer customers or other interstate pipelines, such as those owned by Columbia Gas Transmission LLC or National Fuel Gas Co., in the area, Genscape Inc. analyst Vanessa Witte said. ETP in 2015 inked a long-term deal with privately owned EdgeMarc Energy Holdings LLC, announcing at the time that it would build the cryogenic gas processing plant, a fractionator and the gathering lines to facilitate the agreement.
EdgeMarc has subscribed to more than 160 MMcf/d on Rover. Witte said the incident could limit some volumes from reaching the Burgettstown lateral, which was only recently authorized for service by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and has shown no scheduled nominations yet.
ETP has also said there are other producer customers subscribed to the Revolution system, but it’s unclear who they are.
The October gas futures contract settled slightly higher on Monday on stronger cash prices in key markets and the explosion. With little change in weather models, and the small shifts pointing to cooler weather in the days ahead, market observers pinned Monday’s rally partly on the Revolution system incident.
Residents in Center Township, about 30 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, were jolted awake early Monday by what emergency management officials described as a massive explosion. ETP said part of the 24-inch diameter gathering segment of its Revolution system that runs from Butler County to Washington County burst into flames at about 5 a.m. ET. The company’s monitoring system detected the blast and triggered valves that isolated the line. By 7 a.m., the fire had extinguished itself after the gas flow was cut off.
The explosion also toppled six high-tension towers owned by FirstEnergy Corp. subsidiary West Penn Power, bringing down electricity lines and cutting power to Duquesne Light Co. customers as well. Power has since been restored, the authorities said, but the companies still are working on infrastructure. There were no injuries, but one home and a garage a few hundred feet away from the pipeline were destroyed by the explosion in addition to multiple vehicles, authorities said.
ETP representatives said late Monday the company plans to inspect the entire 24-inch diameter segment of the Revolution pipeline system.
“We’ll be inspecting the full line, looking at areas where, with all of this rain, there may be other areas that we need to take a look at and go back in to do some additional work,” said spokesperson Vicki Granado, who traveled from Dallas to address news media and local residents.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) is overseeing the investigation, and spokesman Nils Hagen-Frederiksen confirmed that engineers from the pipeline safety division are on scene.
No environmental issues have been reported, Kramer said. Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Lauren Fraley said PUC has primary jurisdiction over the intrastate system, but said the agency is “standing by to provide assistance and air monitoring if necessary once the site is safe to enter.”
Natural gas utility Peoples conducted inspections of its mainlines and meters at each home in the area to ensure safety and later gave the all-clear. Peoples spokesman Barry Kukovich noted that ETP’s system does not supply customers and said there have been no service interruptions.
Kramer added that while local authorities knew about construction on ETP’s gathering line, they did not know it had entered service. He said the county’s reverse 911 system was employed to notify residents. He also said multiple agencies from the region responded. The American Red Cross was also on the scene to assist.
ETP has established a hotline at (800) 445-5846 to field questions, complaints and take property claims from residents and local officials. The rain that has plagued the region is expected to move out on Monday, but flooding was still expected to remain an issue, authorities said.
The explosion is the latest to dog the region in what’s been an unusually wet summer across Appalachia. Leach XPress in West Virginia caught fire and exploded in June after what was later attributed by Columbia Gas Transmission LLC to a landslide.