Dec. 13, 2013

Pennsylvania evaluates radioactivity levels

Further to the Pennsylvania Department of Energy's (DEP's) ongoing evaluation, the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC) and the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association (PIOGA) will jointly investigate naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) and technologically enhanced NORM (TENORM) in shale production-related activities.

The objective of the study is to gather results and other sources of sound data that will help the industry gain a greater awareness of this issue, MSC said in a statement.

"We are encouraging our members to participate in this study, along with DEP's ongoing evaluation," PIOGA President Lou D'Amico said. "Our organizations will provide our results to the DEP and work closely with the department to continue to make certain that Pennsylvania's environment is effectively protected and enhanced alongside safe, responsible shale development."

According to newly elected MSC President David Spigelmyer, the study's sampling plan exhaustively covers the exploration and production process.

Shale production creates produced water, flowback water, and drill cuttings that could potentially contain NORM and TENORM. The organizations will work with accredited laboratories to analyze samples and evaluate various operational practices and equipment used in shale development.

MSC releases drilling, completions guidance

In October, the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC) released its latest guidance document to assist operators with drilling and completions operations during unconventional resource development.

According to MSC CEO Kathryn Klaber, the document, along with the Commonwealth's regulatory framework, will help further ensure operations are carried out safely, responsibly, and efficiently.

Guidance is provided for the following:

    • Planning – From obtaining the proper regulatory approvals, to recommendations on traffic, lighting, noise, water management and recycling, erosion and sediment controls, and secondary containment, this section provides operators with a checklist of items to be considered prior to moving the rig and completions equipment into place.

    • Health and Safety – All operating personnel should receive training regarding the need for, use of, and expectations regarding appropriate personal protective equipment prior to beginning work.

    • Well Control – It is recommended that two mechanical barriers in the flow path be maintained, when feasible, during all drilling and completions operations. The mechanical barrier equipment includes specialized valves known as blowout preventers (BOPs). Each operator should develop specifications, testing, inspection, and maintenance requirements for all BOPs and associated equipment. Operators should implement a comprehensive well control training and competency assurance program for well engineers, rig foremen, and service contractors.

    • High Pressure Equipment – Operators should implement methods and procedures to routinely test the integrity of all high pressure surface equipment, including the wellhead, flow lines, manifolds, piping, and pump equipment. Detailed considerations are included in the full recommended practice.

    • Drilling Operations – Prior to beginning drilling operations, operators should seek to identify the existence of active coal mines and coal seams, depth of groundwater aquifers, and other oil and gas wells within 1,000 ft of the surface location and 500 ft of the horizontal portion of the wellbore.

    • Hydraulic Fracturing and Flowback Operations – Operators should disclose the composition of hydraulic fracturing fluid additives to the extent permitted by suppliers while respecting related intellectual property rights and proprietary and confidential business information. To the extent practicable, operators also should monitor adjacent oil and gas wells during fracing. During flowback operations, operators should minimize the release of produced gases and contain produced liquids through capture (production into tanks or pipelines) or temporary flaring. Venting is discouraged.

Northeast upgrade adds takeaway capacity

Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP, placed the fully subscribed Northeast Upgrade Project (NEUP) in service Nov. 1, 2013. The $500 million project boosts capacity on Tennessee Gas Pipeline's 300 Line system in Pennsylvania and New Jersey by 636,000 dekatherms per day (dth/d) and provides additional takeaway capacity from the Marcellus shale area.

Tennessee Gas Pipeline also placed into service its $65 million Marcellus Pooling Point (MPP) project as scheduled on Nov. 1, 2013. The fully subscribed project provides about 240,000 dth/d of additional Marcellus transportation capacity.

Noble's Marcellus output surges 50%

Noble Energy Inc. reported in its third-quarter 2013 update that its Marcellus shale production achieved a record average rate of 168 MMcfe/d, an increase of 50% compared to the second quarter 2013 and 64% compared to the third quarter last year.

The company's 11-well SHL-8 pad in West Virginia and seven-well WFN-1 pad in southwestern Pennsylvania were brought online during the quarter at a gross rate of more than 90 MMcfe/d.

Noble is operating five horizontal drilling rigs in the liquids-rich areas, with two in Majorsville, one each in Pennsboro and Oxford, and the fifth in Moundsville. During the quarter, 15 operated wells were drilled ranging in lateral length from 8,700 ft to over 10,000 ft.

Joint venture partner Consol, which operates three horizontal rigs in the dry gas area, drilled 12 wells and brought online 22 wells, according to Noble.

Bluegrass proposes Gulf Coast delivery

Bluegrass Pipeline LLC, a joint venture (JV) between Williams and Boardwalk Pipeline Partners LP, has launched a binding open season to determine industry commitments to NGL transportation capacity from the Marcellus and Utica shales to the petrochemical and export complex on the US Gulf Coast. The open season began on Oct. 29 and will conclude on Dec. 16.

Phase one of Bluegrass Pipeline is being designed to provide customers with 200,000 b/d of mixed NGL takeaway capacity in Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania to an interconnect with Boardwalk's Texas Gas Transmission system near Hardinsburg, Ky.

Phase two would increase capacity to 400,000 b/d to meet market demand, primarily by adding additional liquids pumping capacity. The pipeline would deliver mixed NGL from these producing areas to proposed new fractionation and storage facilities that would have connectivity to petrochemical facilities and product pipelines along the coasts of Louisiana and Texas.

In addition, the fractionation and storage facilities are expected to have connectivity to a proposed new liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) export terminal that, according to the company, would offer producers an attractive option for exporting propane and butane, which represent approximately 30% of the average NGL barrel.

The proposed fractionation plant and storage facilities are a joint venture project between Williams and Boardwalk collectively named Moss Lake Fractionation. Williams and Boardwalk also recently announced a JV to develop a new LPG export terminal and related facilities near Lake Charles, La., on the Gulf Coast, named Moss Lake LPG Terminal, to provide customers access to international markets.

Range reports Marcellus gains

Exiting the third quarter, Range Resources reported it had 960 MMcfd of gas production, a 21% increase from the same period in 2012 and more than the 950 MMcfd of gas it had anticipated.

According to Range CEO Jeff Ventura, the company's Marcellus drilling program led the gains. Range expects to achieve the high end of its production growth target of 20% to 25% for 2013. "Our sizable position in the Marcellus shale gives us confidence that we can deliver similar growth of 20% to 25% for many years," he said.

The company reported third-quarter net income of $19.2 million, up from a loss of $53.8 million in the same quarter last year. Revenue was $442 million.

Philadelphia refinery receives Marcellus gas

The Mariner East 2 Pipeline project in Philadelphia is expected to be operational in early 2016, Sunoco Logistics Partners LP reported. The 300- to 400-mile pipeline will transport natural gas liquids from processing facilities built in the Marcellus and Utica regions in western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and eastern Ohio, to the company's Marcus Hook Industrial Complex located on the Delaware River. The company predicts that its Mariner East 1 will begin flowing propane by mid-2014. Sunoco's Marcus Hook facility was an idle oil facility. The company purchased the plant for $60 million and is investing an unspecified amount to upgrade the facility to handle 70,000 boe/d of ethane and propane. It is expected to reach full capacity in mid-2015. The open season on Mariner East 2 was launched in early December.