By Stefano Virgilli — On a late Friday afternoon, February 3, 2017, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved William’s Atlantic Sunrise pipeline project. The project was approved just a few hours before FERC chairman Norman Bay left his position in the Commission, which is currently lacking the quorum necessary to approve more billion dollar projects. For instance, the decision on PennEast pipeline project is put on hold, as well as many other plans. The decision was awaited for almost two years, and it saved the company from months of further delays as the Commission would have been unable to decide without its chairman. The project is expected to be in service in mid-2018.
The $3 billion worth, almost 200-mile pipeline project will expand the natural gas pipeline — an extension of the Transco system — and deliver gas from Marcellus Shale regions, through ten countries in the US and across the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast.
Williams Cos is still expecting permissions of the Department of Environmental Protection as well as from the US Army Corps. However, the FERC’s approval was one of the most important, and as Chris Stockton — William’s spokesperson — said, this certificate “was the big hurdle”.
“This is what we’ve been working on for three years. It’s been the culmination of a lot of collaboration and we’re very excited to have gotten to this point and we’re looking forward to moving forward with the project,” he stated.
He adds that the company is on a good way to get the state permission of the Department of Environmental Protection, and it is expecting to start construction in the second quarter of 2017. Another part of the project is the development of two compressor stations and upgraded infrastructure to support the functioning of the pipelines. Once built, the pipeline will convey 1.7 billion cubic feet of gas per day, enough to help 7 million homes.
When it comes to the environmental issues, the FERC supported the project by saying that environmental damage would be “reduced to less-than-significant levels” through the company’s efforts of diminishing the damages.
However, the project is controversial as it is faced with a strong opposition from many people in the country, especially in the Lancaster and Lebanon county areas. The President of the Lebanon Pipeline Awareness, Ann Pinca, has recently stated that the project did not come as a surprise because they expected it, but the knowledge of the situation does not improve anything. Lebanon Pipeline Awareness was initially formed to fight the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline project.
“This decision was precipitated by the announcement of Norman Bay’s resignation and we think it’s extremely unfair. There’s so many errors that have been pointed out, so many pieces missing from the application. We had hoped they had looked at the application and done the right thing,” Pinca said.
Consequently, she expects some appeals filed against the decision of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and civil disobedience at the commencement of construction. Williams’ spokesperson Stockton responded about the possible environmental issues and the residents’ concerns, by saying that the company is aware there are many people that understand the significance of the project and the benefits of connecting Marcellus Shale gas with other markets.
However, Ann Pinca strongly disagrees. She defends the side of the private citizens that “have to lose their properties to industries with deep pockets. “It’s wrong, it’s an abuse of eminent domain and it’s just wrong,” she added. Also, some of the biggest fears of the locals are possible environmental issues and threats caused by pipeline leaks.
Many other companies and organisations criticized the decision of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, including Sierra Club, the United States environmental organisation, founded in 1892. They described the decision as “reckless”, and the project as “dirty and dangerous”. Even though this approval is one of the biggest steps for Williams’ Partners towards the goal of the successful start of the project, the company needs to accomplish the necessary conditions and get the right certifications before it begins construction. Aside from that, they also need to meet the complaints of private citizens about their properties and establish environmental safety as a priority.
Recently, Oman’s Oil and Gas Minister Dr Mohammed bin Hamad al Rumhy met Iran’s Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh in Tehran to talk about a subsea pipeline project that will export natural gas from Iran to Oman.
Iran’s Oil Minister, Zanganeh made the announcement and added that representatives from several global energy companies, including France’s Total, South Korea’s Korea Gas Corporation (KOGAS), Royal/Dutch Shell, Germany’s Uniper and Japan’s Mitsui, participated at the meeting. The project is based on a 2013 agreement, where Iran will export gas to Oman, through a pipeline that will pass through the Arabian Gulf.