Against All Odds - ETP's Rover Pipeline Sends More Marcellus/Utica Shale Gas West

In another key milestone for Northeast pipeline takeaway capacity expansions, Energy Transfer Partners’ beleaguered Rover Pipeline project began partial service on its Phase 1A portion on gas day September 1. The 3.25-Bcf/d project, which is due for completion in early 2018, is expected to provide relief for constrained Northeast producers while exacerbating oversupply conditions and gas-on-gas competition in the Dawn, Ontario, storage and demand market area and surrounding region. Within days of initial start-up, flows on Rover ramped up to 700 MMcf/d, and both Ohio and overall Northeast production already have posted record highs since then as a result. Today, we take a look at the project, including initial flows and the expected timing of full completion.

It’s been a long, tumultuous road for ETP’s Rover Pipeline project so far. From its inception, the project was competing head-to-head for shipper commitments and investment dollars against the DTE Energy Co./Enbridge 1.5-Bcf/d NEXUS Gas Transmission project which would begin in the same general gas-supply area (eastern Ohio) and serve the same general markets (southeastern Michigan and Ontario). Then, in late 2016/early 2017, ETP found itself racing against the clock to secure its final certificate of approval and finish clearing trees along the project route before some endangered bats — yes, bats — came to roost (see Bat Out of Hell). The developer managed to beat the clock on that, with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issuing the certificate in early February 2017, just one day before the departure of Commissioner Norman Bay broke the quorum needed to get that final approval. With the certificate in hand, Rover construction proceeded at break-neck speed, and for a while the project seemed unshakable — that is, until disaster struck in May 2017 in the form of a two-million gallon spill of fluid containing diesel in a protected wetland area near the Tuscarawas River in Stark County, OH, which prompted FERC to issue an order halting any new Rover-related drilling activity pending a third-party review.

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At the time, the project was targeting a July start for the initial service, and the spill left Rover scrambling to address the concerns and correct any issues in order to get the go-ahead to complete the necessary work. Separately, by late July, the project was also working to address a water permit issue in West Virginia. In spite of these eleventh-hour setbacks and delays, however, by late-August, ETP had managed to complete a portion of Phase 1 of Rover construction — called Phase 1A — and on August 31 FERC granted permission to begin flowing gas on that segment.  Since then, we’ve started seeing those first flows. We’ll take a closer at what’s happened so far with this first phase in a bit. First, to put it into perspective, however, we start with the description of what the full project will look like once completed.

Even without the regulatory snafus, Rover was no small undertaking, involving about 711 miles of greenfield pipeline across three states spanning the Northeast and Midwest regions. In fact, the project marks the first large-scale, greenfield interstate natural gas pipeline project in the area since the eastern segment of Rockies Express Pipeline (REX East) was completed in 2009. The map in Figure 1 depicts the Rover project in its entirety, including:

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