As it continues pushing to finish constructing its $4.2 billion Rover Pipeline by 4Q2017, Energy Transfer Partners LP (ETP) through its affiliates has asked FERC for authorization to place the related Panhandle and Trunkline backhaul projects into service.

The backhaul projects are designed to add bi-directional capacity to Panhandle Eastern Pipe Line Co. LP’s and Trunkline Gas Co. LLC’s existing pipeline systems, allowing additional natural gas to flow out of the Appalachian Basin into Midwest and Gulf Coast markets.

The Panhandle project includes an interconnect with Rover near Defiance, OH, while the Trunkline project includes modifications to the existing Panhandle-Trunkline Interconnect at the Panhandle Tuscola Compressor Station in Douglas County, IL.

In recent filings with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission [CP15-93, CP15-94, CP15-96], the companies said construction for the Panhandle and Trunkline backhaul projects is complete, with restoration complete or nearly complete at most of the roughly one dozen compressor and valve sites modified to add the bi-directional capacity.

Panhandle and Trunkline asked FERC to grant the authorization by Tuesday. “This requested in-service schedule is necessary to allow Panhandle and Trunkline to reverse physical gas flow on their respective natural gas systems towards Midwestern and southern markets prior to the in-service of the Rover Pipeline Project,” they said.

ETP management said during a recent 2Q2017 conference call that construction on Phase 1a should be completed this week, with cleanup following a drilling fluids release near the Tuscarawas River in Stark County, OH, wrapping up around the same time.

FERC has made clean-up following the Tuscarawas spill a condition for receiving in-service authorization for Rover’s Phase 1a, including initial service along Mainline A from Cadiz, OH, to Defiance, OH.

The timing of start-up for the full Rover project remains subject to uncertainty as long as a moratorium on pending horizontal directional drilling (HDD) crossings for the 710-mile, 3.25 Bcf/d project is still in effect. The HDD moratorium has been in effect since May following the Tuscarawas incident.

Phase 1b, which would extend service through additional supply laterals in the eastern end of the project area, is dependent on FERC lifting the HDD order. ETP management has said a key HDD drill to allow the Clarington Lateral to run beneath Captina Creek in Belmont County, OH, would take about 40 days to complete once FERC allows HDD work to resume at the site.

ETP plans to have Phase 2 — including Mainline B and service to an interconnect with the Vector Pipeline in Michigan — completed by late November or early December, management has said.

The market has watched Rover’s progress closely due to its potential to uncork significant new volumes of Marcellus and Utica shale production. News of the project’s setbacks have come amid rising Northeast production and widening basis differentials at Appalachian hubs like Dominion South.