Pipeline 101: Permitting and Approval

The third installment of our Pipeline 101 series highlights the extensive permitting and approval process. After proposing and routing the project, pipeline developers must acquire hundreds of individual permits, certifications, and approvals from local, state, and federal government agencies. These permits cover a broad range of issues, from roadways, to wildlife habitats, water body crossings. Regulators also examine potential effects on nearby water sources and soil quality.

In every area of construction, pipelines are designed to minimize their impact on the environment and surrounding communities. Energy companies have often even opted towards upgrading existing pipelines as opposed to constructing entirely new ones. Repurposing and upgrading pipelines saves time, money, and utilizes the infrastructure already in the ground. Trained professionals conduct numerous surveys for cultural resources and environmental issues. This vetting, routing, and approval process is essential for all modern pipelines, because it ensures the project meets or exceeds all safety requirements. To learn more about the permitting and approval process, watch the short clip below.

Pipeline 101: Pipeline Routing Process

The second installment of our Pipeline 101 series focuses on the routing process. Mapping out the route of a pipeline is a very detailed process that involves many considerations. There are two main categories of products that pipelines transport: natural gas and liquids, like oil. Gas pipelines are regulated at the federal level while regulations of liquids pipelines are state by state. Even with these varied levels of regulation, all pipelines are required to meet or exceed federal safety standards.

The local community is heavily involved in the early stages of the pipeline process. Community members have the opportunity to learn more about the potential pipeline route and express concerns through community forums, town halls, and public hearings. Residents and local government officials play a critical role in the public commenting process and mapping the pipeline route. After local communities provide input on the project, thorough reviews take place at the state and federal level. This process takes several months, and even years, before construction can begin on the pipeline. Check out the video to learn more about this process!

The Northeast needs critical energy infrastructure, starting with Granite Bridge Pipeline

GAIN spokesman Craig Stevens recently had an op-ed published in the New Hampshire Journal regarding Granite Bridge Pipeline and the need for critical energy infrastructure in the Northeast. Stevens writes that the Northeast corridor has long been a holdout against the U.S. shale boom, opting to pay high energy costs in the winter months rather than invest in pipelines and other energy infrastructure. Activists have continued to vehemently oppose safe infrastructure projects that if constructed, could greatly help to alleviate the region’s energy shortage. The op-ed expands on just how scarce energy products are:

In New England, which gets half its power from natural gas, prices spiked more than 400 percent during the “Polar Vortex” in 2014. Last winter, gas prices rose more than 60 times recent rates, and Boston had to import liquified natural gas from Russia due to bottlenecks — a first in U.S. history.

A recent report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce found residents in the Northeast pay 44 percent more for electricity and nearly 30 percent more for natural gas, and regional manufacturers face costs that are 64 percent higher than the national average.

Stevens contends that these economic burdens are self-induced and could easily be mitigated with investments in critical energy infrastructure, like the Granite Bridge Pipeline. Earlier this summer, Granite Bridge received the endorsement of the New Hampshire Senate, a key move in strengthening the grid and promoting energy security throughout the Northeast. The New Hampshire Senate’s endorsement of Granite Bridge represents more than just support for a single pipeline project. Rather, this notion speaks volumes, as Stevens writes:

Support for New Hampshire’s Granite Bridge project suggests that the tide is turning — that common sense and economic realities are winning out with voters over the far-left’s hype machine. Residents recognize the value of natural gas, not only as a reliable fuel source but as a means to reduce our carbon footprint. And it comes at a critical time. A study last year found the region could lose nearly 80,000 jobs, more than $4 billion in wages and $7.6 billion in GDP by 2020 if no new pipelines are built.

Now is the time to focus on ensuring affordable, accessible energy products rather than giving attention to rogue environmental activists and anti-energy politicians. Modern pipeline development is key to providing reliable energy to consumers across the United States, especially the Northeast.

Pipelines are undoubtedly the safest, most efficient method of delivering energy products to residents. In addition to transporting energy, pipelines create well-paying jobs and bring much-needed tax revenue to municipal and state governments. GAIN looks forward to the completion of Granite Bridge and the great contributions it will bring to fueling New Hampshire’s energy needs.

Read the full op-ed here.

Pipeline 101: The Benefits of Pipelines

Interested in learning more about pipelines and the important role they play in the energy industry? You’ve come to the right place! This clip is the first of five short videos in the series “Pipeline 101.” The videos will cover the pipeline process from start to finish, and highlight the need for energy infrastructure.

America’s natural resources can help the country meet its energy needs. From providing modern cooking facilities, to heating our homes, to the now-basic necessity of electricity, domestic energy is critical to the American way of life and a strong economy. But in order to utilize these great resources, we must be able to safely transport product. Pipelines are the safest, most efficient method of transporting products such as oil and natural gas. In addition, pipelines provide millions of dollars in tax revenue and create well-paying jobs.

These benefits are remarkable, but pipelines are not built overnight. They are carefully planned and evaluated before final approval. Check out this short clip for more on the benefits of pipelines and their vital role in fueling our nation.

Benefits of Infrastructure Expansion is Two – Fold

The lack of sufficient infrastructure in the Permian Basin is starting to show, as recently featured in the Wall Street Journal. Natural gas companies are resorting to ‘flaring’, the process of burning off excess natural gas, to handle the surplus natural gas until infrastructure expansion catches up to production. As a result, the skies of Texas and southeast New Mexico are alight with flaring stacks.

During the second quarter of 2018 flaring in the Permian Basin reached an incredible 320 million cubic feet a day, holding a market value of $1 million. The largest companies in the Permian Basin find themselves burning anywhere from 6-10% of their daily yields and are part of a 20,000 member group that applied for flaring permits in the region in the last five years. The Texas Railroad Commission (TRC), the oil and gas regulator in Texas, did not deny a single request of the 20,000. TRC member, Ryan Sitton, says “There’s nothing for us to do. If gas becomes a waste product, people will flare it.”

Basic economics push businesses into flaring as the only immediate alternative is to halt production. This situation reinforces the immediate need for more pipelines and storage facilities so that businesses can operate fully and stop the wastefulness they’ve been forced into.

Infrastructure can alleviate the financial pains flaring causes businesses as well as ease the environmental impact flaring has on the atmosphere. Flaring 320 million cubic feet of natural gas is wasteful. The Energy Information Administration has estimated it to be equivalent to the daily needs of some small states. Additionally, such aggressive flaring has a comparable greenhouse gas emission level to that of 2 million cars.

Undeniable business and environmental consequences make flaring an obvious problem. Fortunately, expanding infrastructure is an obvious solution. Broadening pipeline networks can work two – fold to rectify missed business opportunities and reduce environmental impact. Other regions across the U.S have had a similar flaring problem, particularly in North Dakota. As the U.S natural resources industries continue to boom with the realization of Marcellus Shale reserves and the Permian Basin, a national push to increase infrastructure is imperative to preserving economic opportunities and the environment.

Fossil fuels play critical role, improved millions of lives over the years

For years, environmental activists have been calling for fossil fuel bans and underlining anti-energy rhetoric. These activists paint the unrealistic picture that divesting from energy products like oil and gas would be a simple process that could seemingly be implemented overnight.  Businessman T. Boone Pickens recently offered thoughtful concerns regarding calls for divestment, pointing out an unfortunate reality for anti-energy activists: oil and gas is engrained in modern society, a fixture in American industry, and has improved the lives of millions. As Pickens writes:

These fuels are behind a multitude of products including carpet, clothes, shoes, shampoo, tires, perfume, insecticides, candles, pens – even iPhones. And of course, it is also the reason developing countries have had heat and transportation. Even as we look to make a transition in our energy consumption, we must recognize the role oil has played in our development.

Activist and student groups across the country have long advocated for divestment, despite the absence of a viable alternative. After calls from their student body to divest from fossil fuels, Stanford University voted against the measure, summarizing the critical role of oil and gas in our society:

Because achieving these goals will take time, and given how integral oil and gas are to the global economy, the trustees do not believe that a credible case can be made for divesting from the fossil fuel industry until there are competitive and readily available alternatives.

Even Pickens, who identifies himself as a “staunch environmentalist,” affirms the need for strong oil and gas markets in order to continue fueling America’s growing energy needs. GAIN echoes these statements. Recognizing the importance of oil and gas is not an anti-environment position, as promoting reliable, affordable energy and environmental consciousness are not mutually exclusive. By expanding and modernizing our country’s critical energy infrastructure, we can continue to produce affordable American products, promote economic growth, and safely and efficiently transport energy to consumer markets.

FERC approves key Rover Pipeline laterals

Good news came yesterday for energy consumers across the country as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved service on Rover Pipeline’s Burgettstown and Majorsville supply laterals effective immediately. FERC also approved the associated compressor and metering stations. According to Associated Press:

When in full operation, Rover will transport gas from processing plants in West Virginia, Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania for delivery to pipeline interconnects in West Virginia and Eastern Ohio as well as to the Midwest Hub near Defiance, Ohio, where up to 68 percent of the gas will be delivered for distribution to markets across the U.S.

FERC’s approval comes at a critical time as the energy industry strives to keep up with the major infrastructure shortage facing the U.S. This approval allows for 100% of long-haul contractual commitments on Rover Pipeline to begin on September 1 as it safely and efficiently transports natural gas products from the Marcellus and Utica shale formations to consumers and businesses throughout the country.

Modern energy infrastructure development is key to ensuring accessible, affordable energy for consumers. Pipelines are the safest, most efficient method of transporting energy products to markets, and GAIN looks forward to the contributions Rover Pipeline will bring to fueling our country’s energy needs!

Regulatory certainty and approval process critical to modern pipeline development

Yesterday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) lifted a stop-work order along 70 miles of the Mountain Valley pipeline route, according to an E&E News article published today. The article writes:

On Aug. 3, FERC issued a stop-work order covering the entire 303-mile pipeline route after the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated federal approvals from BLM and the Forest Service allowing the project to cross the Jefferson National Forest in southern Virginia. FERC ordered Mountain Valley to submit a “stabilization plan” to address stretches where construction activities had already commenced.

FERC stated that Thursday’s decision to lift the stop-work order on the first 77 miles of the pipeline was made in order to best protect the environment from problems that could be caused by partially completed work. The article expanded on this:

[FERC] said that “allowing completion of construction, including full restoration along the right-of-way” was the best option. “Maintaining the status quo would result in significant areas being subject to erosion and soil movement for an indeterminate period, possibly negatively affecting plant and wildlife habitat and adjacent water bodies,” FERC said.

Regulatory agencies play a critical role in the development of modern pipelines. Regulators like FERC ensure that proposed infrastructure is safe, thoughtfully planned, and as least intrusive as possible on the surrounding environment. Regulatory certainty is also important, as regulations must be consistent in order for developers to adequately plan, prepare, and construct new pipelines.

Regulation continues to play a vital role in the growth of modern energy infrastructure. GAIN looks forward to the safe completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline and its great contributions to fueling our country’s energy needs!

Good and Bad: Plenty of Natural Resources, Not Enough Pipelines

The Permian Basin in Texas and southeast New Mexico has exhibited a resurgence in oil and natural gas production the likes of which hasn’t been seen in the area since the mid-1970s. Companies are now faced with a unique problem: there is no commodity shortage, only a shortage of means to transport the oil and natural gas out of the basin and to the consumer.

The Dallas branch of the Federal Reserve estimated an increase in oil production of 34.1% during the 4th quarter of 2017 for counties in the Permian Basin while the remainder of Texas increased 9%. Natural gas is a similar story. Permian Basin counties increased output by 24.9% while Texas counties outside the basin had a decrease of production by 0.3%. A recent report from the U.S Energy Information Administration highlights the Permian region as a leader in oil and gas production, often competing in yield and growth with the Appalachia and Niobara resource fields. The rapid increase in productivity is mirrored by oil and gas rig count. In 2009 just 92 rigs operated in the Permian Basin. That number has since grown 416% to a June 2018 rig count of 475.

With new rigs come new jobs. Employment in the Permian Basin has outpaced statewide employment growth in Texas and New Mexico by 2.7% and 3.5%, respectively. Every statistic shows growth in this part of the country but that development is at risk of being stunted. The lack of infrastructure is one major source of growing pains in the Permian Basin as companies struggle to get commodity to consumer.

To ensure the most effective and safest transportation of oil and natural gas, elected officials must focus on streamlining the expansion of pipeline infrastructure from the Permian Basin to areas of need and export potential. Industry representatives are taking the Permian bottleneck very seriously. Pioneer Natural Resources Co. Chairman, Scott Sheffield, expects “Some companies will have to shut in production, some companies will move rigs away,” as current Permian pipelines are anticipated to be full for three or four months. Too much of a good thing should never be a problem, however it is being seen more and more along Permian rigs. Realistically, supplemental train and truck transport methods will not suffice in meeting growing production and demand. Pipelines are the only transit that can safely and efficiently handle current and future output volumes as business in the Permian region continues.

Pipeline shortages are not unique to the Permian Basin as natural resource booms in the Marcellus and Utica regions experience similar bottlenecks. Expanding pipeline infrastructure will benefit suppliers, refineries, distributors, and consumers. The United States will miss out on an important opportunity to assert itself in the global energy market if it cannot add the pipeline transportation component to its natural resources.

Army Corps taking their time to carefully complete thorough DAPL assessment

Today the Associated Press reported that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ environmental study of the Dakota Access Pipeline will take an additional three weeks to complete. According to attorneys for the Justice Department, the Corps needs more time to review information provided by DAPL developer, Energy Transfer Partners, and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

Back in June 2017, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg ruled that the Corps did not fully consider the potential impacts of an oil spill in the Missouri River, ordering the Corps to perform another environmental impact analysis. Currently the Dakota Access Pipeline is still operational as the Corps completes its job reaffirming the rule of law in this case.

We commend the Corps for devoting the necessary time and effort towards completing a thorough environmental study of the pipeline. Despite numerous legal challenges, the Corps’ diligence in its review – as well as the responsible construction and operation of Dakota Access – remain clear. GAIN looks forward to reviewing the results of the assessment and settling this matter in order to continue promoting energy infrastructure throughout the country.