Pennsylvania ups the ante for trusted pipeline development

November 2016

By Kate Permenter, Editor, Pipeline News

Pennsylvania is home to the Pittsburgh Steelers and known as the snack capital of the world. Aside from pigskin and potato chips, the Keystone State is also recognized for sitting on the Marcellus Shale gas play – the largest natural gas producer in the U.S.

According to a recent report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the combined increase of natural gas production in the Marcellus and Utica shale plays has reached 12 Bcf/d since 2011. The EIA says this growth equals a whopping 89% of all production growth in the U.S. over the past five years.

The caveat to Pennsylvania’s healthy gas market is that there isn’t sufficient infrastructure to support production. The EIA report stresses that pipeline infrastructure projects can take years from proposal to completion and therefore the current infrastructure hasn’t kept up with the region’s booming production.

In February, Governor Tom Wolf put together a team called the Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force to drive the reliable development of much-needed pipeline infrastructure in Pennsylvania over the next ten years. The task force, made up of 48 members and 100 volunteers, was split into 12 subgroups to establish strategies for six key issues.

A press release by The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection lists the six issues proposed to the task force, which includes the following:

  • Amplify and engage in meaningful public participation
  • Develop long-term operations and maintenance plans to ensure pipeline safety and integrity
  • Employ construction methods that reduce environmental impact
  • Maximize opportunities for predictable and efficient permitting
  • Plan, site and route pipelines to avoid/reduce environmental and community impacts
  • Enhance workforce/economic development

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection says that the Pipeline Task Force’s ultimate goal is to create strategies for pipeline siting, permitting and safety. The force’s proposed strategies will be a catalyst for communication between the community and pipeline industry, which will build trust and cooperation between both parties.

Several pipeline projects are scheduled in Pennsylvania, including the Atlantic Sunrise Project (proposed), the Mariner East II Pipeline (proposed) and the Sunbury Pipeline (under construction). Other major Pennsylvania pipeline projects are currently delayed, including Kinder Morgan’s Northeast Energy Direct, the Constitution Pipeline and the PennEast Pipeline.

Within the upcoming years, thousands of miles of pipeline will be built in Pennsylvania and the Pipeline Task Force’s best practices will be a valuable tool to move these necessary projects forward and strengthen the state’s pipeline infrastructure.

In order to build a safer and stronger pipeline infrastructure network, everyone needs to be onboard – from landowners to stakeholders and the Pipeline Task Force will help foster these relationships.

As J.K. Rowling put it— “We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.”

So next time you’re in Pennsylvania, grab a pretzel, head to a game and trust in the force.