Pipeline Update: An open letter to A. Barton Hinkle

Concerning your commentary published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch and elsewhere: “There’s no perfect route for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.”

It’s not up to the standard you sometimes achieve.

I wondered if I was the pipeline opponent you describe as “worried” that the previously proposed horizontal drilling under Shenandoah Mountain would pollute streams.

Actually, I was not simply worried; I was convinced. Take a look at the two related images:

One image is a map, showing the proposed Shenandoah Mountain drilling and Hodges Draft, a small native brook trout stream. The currently pristine upper reaches of Hodges Draft would have become corridors for access roads, drilling sites, staging areas, and permanently open pipeline right-of-way. It’s not likely that the trout population could have survived the forest clearing, the stream-side and in-stream excavation, and the unavoidable stream warming and sedimentation that the proposed pipeline construction and related infrastructure would entail.

Our native trout streams represent some of the best of what remains of the natural world and we should not give them up easily.

The other image is an aerial photo obtained in 2015 by the Pipeline Air Force. The photo shows a horizontal drilling operation involving a smaller pipeline and a single 1000-foot boring under Interstate 79 in central West Virginia. Dominion’s proposed drilling under Shenandoah Mountain would have been a much bigger deal, with two borings, each more than a mile long.

The drilling operation in the photo occurred during construction of the Stonewall Pipeline. GAI Consultants, which prepared erosion and sediment control plans for the project, is also a contractor for the ACP. The construction was done by Precision Pipeline, which claims to have the very highest environmental standards. In contrast to company PR, however, the Stonewall project was serially non-compliant with environmental regulations. The pipeline developer is now subject to a consent order and a $105,000 fine issued by the WV Department of Environmental Protection.

Dominion’s history is not much better. The WVDEP issued a consent order and $55,000 fine for a series of water quality violations at a 2014 Dominion pipeline construction project in northern West Virginia.

These after-the-fact fines and enforcement actions are simply part of the prevailing “business model.” Pipelines are built in a hurry with little independent oversight, corners are cut, water resources are damaged, some fines are paid, and it’s time to move on to the next project.

Concerning the need for the ACP: A case has been made that the project is mostly about securing a competitive advantage and rate-payer-ensured profit for a powerful and privileged corporation —hardly justification for environmental harm, intrusion into public conservation lands, and state-sanctioned violation of private property rights.

Your commentary, however, suggests that you’ve been mislead by company talking points.

You need to look beyond Dominion-sponsored analysis. Read the recent report on pipeline overbuilding by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. And read The ACP in a Nutshell, which describes how the ACP will supply facilities that are already well supplied or can be supplied using existing underused gas pipelines.

So what is the crux of your complaint?

ACP proponents, such as yourself, assert that Dominion has repeatedly moved the proposed route in a good-faith effort to accommodate environmental and landowner concerns. On the contrary, Dominion has instead adopted an abusive and perverse crowd-sourcing approach to planning and advocating for the ACP. This point is well made in the attached Recorder commentary.

From the beginning, Dominion considered only some of the most obvious factors in plotting a pipeline route from point A to point B, leaving it up to citizens, landowners, local governments, and environmental agencies to invest the time and energy required for meaningful analysis. Then, when Dominion hastily modifies the route in response to public concerns — but once again without proper analysis — company spokesmen complain that the pipeline’s irrational opponents are never satisfied.

We are not put-off by such posturing. There is too much at stake. And we are definitely not satisfied with Dominion’s persistent lack of real concern about the environmental and societal impacts of its ill-conceived pipeline project.

Rick Webb, CoordinatorDominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition
rwebb.dpmc@gmail.com540-468-2881 h, 540-290-0913 c

Note:  The phrase “There ‘Aint No Good Route” is derived from the song “There ‘Aint No Good Chain Gang” by Willie Nelson, et al.   Chain gangs and large diameter high pressure pipelines through the National Forests are to be avoided at all cost!  DGN

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Huge Utica Shale Gas Well Gains Attention in Ohio

by Duane Nichols on June 24, 2016

Purple Hayes in Guernesy County, OH

Push to Optimize Results During Downturn Led to Eclipse’s Behemoth Utica Well

From an Article by Jamison Cocklin, Natural Gas Intelligence, May 18, 2016

While the past two years have been marked by declining profits, drilling activity and workforces for the oil and gas industry, innovations have underscored the downturn as well, with producers relying on technology to help shore-up their balance sheets.

One example is Eclipse Resources Corp.’s Purple Hayes 1H well in Ohio’s Utica Shale, completed with an 18,544 foot lateral and 124 stages, setting what’s likely a record for the longest onshore lateral in the United States and possibly the world.

The Purple Hayes was drilled in the condensate window in Guernsey County, and at a cost of $15.8 million, it wasn’t cheap. According to Eclipse’s type curve summary, a 10,000-foot lateral in the condensate window costs about $9 million; the same length in the dry gas window has run the company about $10 million. Ultimately, Eclipse management believes it can drill even longer wells with a goal of reducing drilling and completion costs per foot and improving well economics.

Eclipse said the longer laterals should drive down finding and development costs by 20-30% in the condensate area and improve well returns by 35-70%.

“In the current low commodity environment, operators like Eclipse are targeting their core acreage and remain focused on optimizing development with longer laterals and shorter spacing,” said Nine Energy Service Inc. Vice President of Completions Technology Nick Pottmeyer. “Longer laterals are proving to be a more effective way to develop acreage. Increased well costs to drill [deeper] can be justified by the improved production ranges and return on revenue.”

Privately owned Nine Energy, an oilfield services company that offers completion, wireline and cementing solutions in North America, worked with Eclipse to design the plug and perforation system with well modeling software. The Purple Hayes was drilled in 18 days, and Nine said it took 23.5 days to complete without any unproductive time.

Eclipse Completions Manager Kyle Bradford said the company knew there would be a “number of challenges” for the well, but management said the goal was to enhance the return profile of the Utica by determining the technical limits of lateral length in the liquids portion of its acreage.

“It’s pretty neat. And really, the way you look at this is this is three laterals back-to-back in one well,” said Pennsylvania State University’s Terry Engelder, geosciences professor and Appalachian Basin expert. “If you have a rock that’s strong enough so that it doesn’t collapse on the drill rod as you’re drilling it, that probably is the major parameter that limits the length of these wells. They are in a rock in the Utica that has the kind of strength to remain open to allow that distance for drilling.”

Engelder pointed to ExxonMobil Corp.’s Sakhalin 1-Project offshore far east Russia, which is widely thought to be the world’s longest extended-reach well. An ExxonMobil subsidiary drilled the Odoptu OP-11 well to a total measured depth (TMD) of 40,502 feet, setting what it said was a world record in 2011 with a horizontal reach of 37,648 feet, or more than seven miles.

The Eclipse well had a TMD of 27,034 feet. By comparison, in the onshore closer to the Purple Hayes, Antero Resources Corp. set a company record in the fourth quarter with its Nova Unit 2H Marcellus Shale well in Doddridge County, WV, which was drilled with a lateral of 14,024 feet.

Engelder said there’s a trivial difference between the distance of the Antero and Eclipse wells, but noted that the Utica is likely more conducive to extended reach laterals. In the Marcellus, he said the folds of the Appalachian Plateau make longer wells more difficult. There are more faults and rock beds dip.

“I think the geological sweet spot, in terms of why it was done in Guernsey County, is that the rock is probably less faulted and more flat lying,” Engelder said. “In other words, you can aim the drill right straight forward and expect to stay in the same horizon all the way and you don’t have to worry about crossing faults. I don’t think this can be done in some of the Marcellus because of those geological complexities.”

Eclipse has more than 100,000 acres in Noble, Guernsey, Monroe, Belmont and Harrison counties. Analysts have noted that it could face liquidity strains next year if natural gas prices don’t improve. After the Purple Hayes, the company said it would again idle its drilling program until late summer and it is currently curtailing volumes as it waits for better prices, factors that make well optimization an even higher priority for a company in its situation.

Beyond reduced drilling activity, workforce reductions and other cost-cutting measures, operators across the Appalachian Basin are finding more ways to manage through the downturn. Most of the basin’s leading producers have retreated almost exclusively to their dry gas acreage where low breakeven prices and prolific wells are being used to defend against low prices. Some operators are also reverting back to wider spacing to either save on land costs or pair longer laterals with more efficiently spaced wells to boost estimated ultimate recoveries and reduce interference.

Footage drilled in the Utica has grown exponentially since unconventional drilling began in the play about six years ago. In 2010, the average footage drilled per well was 3,883 feet, according to the Ohio Oil and Gas Association’s Debrosse Memorial Report, an annual analysis of drilling operations in the state. By last year, that number had increased to 12,336 feet, boosting the average initial production of gas for each well from 50 Mcf/d to 5.4 MMcf/d.

While the Utica might be a top candidate for extended reach wells like the Purple Hayes, Engelder said similar techniques could be on the horizon for other operators across the basin and around the country.

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CONSOL puts focus on dry Utica play as wet-gas prices decline

From an Article by Paul Gough, Pittsburgh Business Journal, June 22, 2016

Consol Energy Inc.’s strategy is going to include a lot more dry-gas development in the Utica Shale as some of the economics of the basin have shifted away from the wet-gas areas of the Marcellus Shale.

“We believe the Utica will make up a larger portion of Consol’s development plans in the future,” COO Timothy Dugan told a crowd of industry executives at the DUG East natural gas conference in downtown Pittsburgh.

Consol halted its drilling program in 2015 as commodity prices declined. It has yet to resume drilling in Pennsylvania, Ohio or West Virginia, where it has one of the largest acreages among exploration and production companies in the Appalachian Basin. Consol has signaled that it is close to making a decision as to when it will resume drilling, perhaps as early as the second half of this year. But no announcement was made today, and Dugan declined to say when drilling might resume or whether a rig would first go into the Utica or Marcellus shales.

“The Utica is certainly a big part of those considerations,” Dugan said.

Dugan’s DUG East presentation was about Consol’s growth in the Utica, where he said the company was well-positioned. According to the latest production data available, Consol owned five of the top 10 producing wells drilled to date in the Utica. It has 28 Utica wells in production between eastern Ohio, southwestern Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia.

But he also described an initiative in the Utica — and an economic climate — where Consol couldn’t take the same deliberate approach to the Utica as it did with the Marcellus.

Consol has already reduced drilling costs and number of days to drill a well by double-digits since it began exploration. But it isn’t able to wait for flowing natural gas wells to make adjustments, Dugan said. Instead, it’s using a lot of mathematical modeling, geological knowledge and other technical know-how to determine the best places to drill in the Utica.

That’s really important in a place like the Utica Shale, which spans several states, as does the Marcellus Shale. Even though the locations are only between 100 and 200 miles apart, the Utica’s depth, pressures and geological attributes vary not only from the Marcellus but depending on location.

“The Utica is a different animal,” Dugan said. “It presents a unique, a different type of challenges.” Consol’s strategy also has different tactics even within the tri-state area. “What is the best practice on a well in Belmont County, [Ohio] may not be the best practice in Greene County, Pennsylvania, or Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, or Tyler County, West Virginia,” he said.

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Residents Seek to Protect Mountain Maryland from Fracking’s Damages

June 23, 2016

Fracking in Maryland: Just like PA and WV.  Really? From Engage Mountain Maryland, June 22, 2016,  http://www.engagemmd.org, EngageMountainMaryland@gmail.com Maryland Department of the Environment, MDE, has published “Issue Papers” that outline the regulations on hydraulic fracturing, “fracking” for Maryland. The 2.5 year moratorium will expire in October of 2017. With the moratorium came a mandate to [...]

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Fossil Fuels’ Two-way Assault on Children’s Health Needs to Stop

June 22, 2016

A children’s health expert, seeing our kids imperiled by fossil fuels and climate change, calls for a kids-first revamp of energy policies From an Article by Brian Bienkowski, Environmental Health News, June 21, 2016 Fossil fuels represent a two-pronged attack on the health of children, a leading health scientist has warned. To foster health and [...]

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States Struggle to Deal with Radioactive Fracking Wastes

June 21, 2016

Potentially dangerous drilling byproducts are being dumped in landfills throughout the Marcellus Shale with few controls From an Article by Jie Jenny Zou, Center for Public Integrity, June 19, 2016 <<< Drill cuttings from fracking are radioactive wastes like the truckload shown here in West Virginia. — Photo Courtesy of Bill Hughes >>> The Marcellus [...]

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Some 60 Organizations Send Pipeline Protest Letter to Governor of Virginia

June 20, 2016

Environmental groups protest McAuliffe’s energy policies From an Article by Duncan Adams, Roanoke Times, June 15, 2016 A grassroots alliance of 57 groups chided Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Wednesday for, in their view, turning a deaf ear to the concerns of communities facing impacts from natural gas pipelines, offshore drilling, coal ash, climate change and [...]

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Toxic Air Pollution From Oil and Gas Industry Is Threatening Over 10 Million Americans

June 19, 2016

Interactive Map Shows Where Toxic Air Pollution From Oil and Gas Industry Is Threatening 12.4 Million Americans From an Article by Earthworks, EcoWatch.com, June 15, 2016 Two leading national environmental groups—Clean Air Task Force (CATF) and Earthworks—unveiled a suite of tools Wednesday designed to inform and mobilize Americans about the health risks from toxic air [...]

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Public Wastewater Treatment Plants Off-limits for Fracking Wastes

June 18, 2016

EPA bans disposal of fracking waste water at public treatment plants From an Article by John Hurdle, NPR StateImpact PA, June 16, 2016 Photo: Waste Treatment Corporation in Warren, Pa. The EPA has banned oil and gas producers from using publicly owned treatment facilities to dispose of fracking waste. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has [...]

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Toxic Chemicals from Oil & Gas Operations Found Inside Residents

June 17, 2016

Toxic Chemicals Found in Residents Living Near Oil and Gas Operations in Pavillion, Wyoming From an Article by Coming Clean, EcoWatch.com, June 16, 2016 A coalition of community and environmental health groups released Thursday a first-of-its-kind research combining air monitoring methods with new biomonitoring techniques to determine if toxic air emissions from natural gas operations could [...]

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Fracking has Become a Corporate Device for Profits without Adequate Protections

June 16, 2016

The Dominion of Hydrocarbons, and No Equitable Resolution Commentary by S. Tom Bond, Retired Chemistry Professor & Resident Farmer, Lewis County, WV   A wise man once defined empire as a “political system that brings wealth from the periphery to the center.” The British Empire famously brought wealth from all over the world to London, [...]

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