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    FERC Halts Rover Drilling under River


US regulators have ordered Rover Pipeline to halt horizontal directional drilling on one of its project spreads under the Tuscarawas River in Ohio

by: Dale Lunan

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FERC Halts Rover Drilling under River

The US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (Ferc) on January 24 ordered Rover Pipeline (a unit of Energy Transfer Partners) to halt horizontal directional drilling (HDD) on one of its project spreads under the Tuscarawas River in Ohio.

In a letter order to Chris Sonneborn, Rover’s senior vice president, engineering, Terry Turpin, director of Ferc’s Office of Energy Projects, notes that some drilling fluid has been lost during the first 1,200 ft of pilot HDD operations on the Mainline B crossing of the Tuscarawas River.

Turpin recognizes that Rover has taken actions to resolve the fluid loss, but also notes that no approach, to date, has been completely successful.

“While our understanding is that no fluid has reached the surface, and no impacts on sensitive resources have been documented, the difficult geology of the crossing warrants investigation into other approaches prior to advancing the HDD pilot drill as well as before the subsequent reaming passes,” Turpin’s letter says. “Therefore, Rover is directed to cease advancement of the pilot cutterhead and must provide [additional] information before further advancement can be authorized.”

Before allowing the Mainline B HDD operation to continue, Ferc wants:

  • Additional details on how Rover plans to address expected drilling fluid losses to subsurface formations on the both entry and exit side of the drill,
  • A feasibility analysis of the direct pipe crossing technique for the Mainline B crossing,
  • A feasibility analysis of alternate crossing locations of the Tuscarawas River using the HDD and/or direct pipe crossing methods for Mainline B, and;
  • A detailed flow diagram and corresponding hydraulic model reflecting the gas volumes and pressure that Rover would be able to provide should the Mainline B crossing not be completed.

The Rover project has been troubled by numerous HDD problems over the past 18 months, including a release of 2mn gallons of drilling fluid at the Mainline B location in April 2017, leading Ferc to halt all HDD operations in May of last year. That order was lifted in September, but the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency expressed its ongoing concerns in a January 11, 2018 letter to Energy Transfer Partners, following the downhole loss of 146,000 gallons of drilling fluid at the Mainline B site on January 10.

“Based on past practices and inadvertent returns at this site, and the manner in which they occurred, Ohio EPA has significant concerns for the potential of a similar release as occurred at this location in April of 2017,” the agency said. “We are deeply concerned this second drill under the Tuscarawas River is heading towards a similar outcome, which resulted in the previous release to the environment.”

Instead of Rover being allowed to continue HDD operations while it seeks a solution, the Ohio EPA wants to know “when this pilot hole, which is continually losing fluids, will be abandoned, fully grouted and a new point of entry… considered.”

A spokeswoman for Energy Transfer Partners told NGW late on January 26 that while HDD operations have been halted at the Mainline B site, construction is continuing at all other Rover sites, with 77% of the total HDD work and 99% of the total project construction now completed.

We continue to work closely with FERC on the best path forward with a priority on maintaining our environmental stewardship and public safety responsibilities,” the spokeswoman said in an email. We remain fully in compliance with our approved HDD plans and continue to progress at the other HDD locations.” 

When Rover is fully in service, it will provide capacity to move some 3.25bn ft3/day of Appalachian gas to markets in the US and Canada, through the Dawn trading hub in Ontario.