FERC issues enviro report on Mountain Valley/Equitrans gas capacity projects

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Sept. 16 put out for comment until Dec. 22 a draft environmental impact statement for interrelated gas pipeline projects proposed by Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC and Equitrans LP.

Mountain Valley requests authorization to construct and operate certain interstate natural gas facilities in West Virginia and Virginia, known as the Mountain Valley Project (MVP), which is designed to transport about 2 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) of natural gas from production areas in the Appalachian Basin to markets in the MidAtlantic and Southeastern United States.

Equitrans requests authorization to construct and operate certain natural gas facilities in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, known as the Equitrans Expansion Project (EEP), with this project designed to transport about 0.4 Bcf/d of natural gas north-south on its system, to improve system flexibility and reliability, and serve markets in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Southeast, through interconnections with various other interstate systems, including the proposed MVP.

Because the MVP and EEP are interrelated and connected actions, we are analyzing them both together in this single comprehensive EIS. 

The planned MVP facilities include:

  • about 301 miles of new 42-inch-diameter pipeline extending from the new Mobley Interconnect in Wetzel County, West Virginia, to the existing Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. LLC (Transco) Station 165 in Pittsylvania County, Virginia;
  • three new compressor stations (Bradshaw, Harris, Stallworth) in West Virginia totaling about 171,600 horsepower (hp);
  • four new meter and regulation stations and interconnections (Mobley, Sherwood, WB, and Transco);
  • two new taps (Webster and Roanoke);
  • five pig launchers and receivers; and
  • 36 mainline block valves.

The EEP facilities include:

  • about eight miles total of new various diameter pipelines in six segments;
  • new Redhook Compressor Station in Greene County, Pennsylvania, with 31,300 hp of compression;
  • four new taps (Mobley, H-148, H-302, H-306) and one new interconnection (Webster);
  • four pig launchers and receivers; and
  • decommissioning and abandonment of the existing 4,800 hp Pratt Compressor Station in Greene County, Pennsylvania.

In October 2015, Mountain Valley Pipeline filed this application with the FERC. In the same month, Equitrans filed its application. 

Mountain Valley is a joint venture between affiliates of EQT Midstream Partners LP; NextEra Energy US Gas Assets LLC; WGL Midstream Inc.; Vega Energy Midstream MVP LLC; RGC Midstream LLC; and Con Edison Gas Midstream LLC. Equitrans is a limited partnership, with about 97.25% owned by Equitrans Investments LLC and 2.75% owned by Equitrans Services LLC, both subsidiaries of EQT Midstream Partners LP.

The MVP is designed to transport about 2.0 million dekatherms per day (Dth/d, equivalent to about 2.0 billion cubic feet per day [Bcf/d]) of contracted volumes of natural gas. The EEP would transport up to 400,000 Dth/d (about 0.4 Bcf/d) of contracted firm capacity of natural gas.

Said the draft EIS, prepared by FERC staff: “We determined that construction and operation of the projects would result in limited adverse environmental impacts, with the exception of impacts on forest. This determination is based on our review of the information provided by the Applicants and further developed from environmental information requests; field reconnaissance; scoping; literature research; alternatives analyses; and contacts with federal, state, and local agencies, and other stakeholders.”

FERC says this project not secretly connected to LNG export efforts

The draft EIS added: “During scoping, we received comments asserting that the real ‘secret’ purpose of the MVP is to export natural gas overseas as liquefied natural gas (LNG). As explained by the FERC staff at the public scoping meetings, there is no truth to that rumor. Mountain Valley clearly stated in its application that it did not design its facilities to transport natural gas to an LNG export terminal. The nearest LNG export terminal to the terminus of the MVP pipeline at the inland Transco Station 165 would be the existing Cove Point LNG terminal on the Chesapeake Bay in Calvert County, Maryland about 190 miles away. There is no direct connection from the Transco Station 165 to the Cove Point terminal. Mountain Valley stated that it does not intend to seek permission to export natural gas overseas as LNG from either the U.S. Department of Energy or the FERC.

“In its formal application with the FERC, Mountain Valley explained that the MidAtlantic and Southeastern United States has been mostly supplied with natural gas from the Gulf Coast. Recently, Gulf Coast supplies have been declining, while Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern market demands have been growing. In the Southeast, many electric generating utilities are switching from a fuel source of coal to natural gas (EIA, 2015). In addition, the population of the East Coast is expected to rise in the future. At the same time, natural gas production from shale formations in the Appalachian Basin has been increasing; from 2 Bcf/d in 2010 to 15 Bcf/d in 2014.

“According to Mountain Valley, the MVP would alleviate some of the constraints on this natural gas production by adding infrastructure to transport lower-priced natural gas from the Appalachian Basin to industrial users and power generators in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern United States, as well as to local distribution companies (LDC). The terminus for the MVP pipeline at Transco Station 165 is the existing pooling point for Zone 5 on Transco’s system and a gas trading hub for the Mid-Atlantic market. Along its route, the MVP pipeline would also be tapped to supply natural gas to Roanoke Gas, an LDC serving southwestern Virginia and a partner in the MVP.

“According to Equitrans, the EEP would provide additional volumes of firm capacity of natural gas to be transported north-south on its existing system. The creation of expansion capacity on Equitrans’ system would allow shippers to transport natural gas produced in the Appalachian Basin to markets in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Southeastern United States, mainly through an interconnection with the MVP. However, the EEP would also interconnect with the existing systems of Texas Eastern Transmission, LP (Texas Eastern); Dominion Transmission, Inc. (Dominion); and [Columbia Pipeline Group]. End-users could include LDCs, industry, and electric power generators. Equitrans stated that the EEP would increase system reliability, efficiency, and operational flexibility for its customers.”

In 2014, Mountain Valley held a non-binding open season and a binding open season for capacity on its planned pipeline. Out of that, Mountain Valley executed long-term precedent agreements with four shippers for 2 Bcf/d of natural gas firm transportation capacity. On Jan. 27, 2016, Mountain Valley informed the FERC that it executed another long-term precedent agreement with a fifth shipper. Therefore, the project now has five shippers and is fully subscribed. The shippers are:

  • EQT Energy LLC, 1,290,000 Dth/d;
  • WGL Midstream Inc., 200,000 Dth/d;
  • Roanoke Gas, 10,000 Dth/d;
  • USG Properties Marcellus Holdings LLC, 250,000 Dth/d; and
  • Consolidated Edison Co. of New York Inc., 250,000 Dth/d.

In March 2015, Equitrans held a non-binding open season for natural gas firm transportation on its system. Ultimately, it signed a long-term precedent agreement with a single shipper for 400,000 Dth/d of firm transportation service.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.