April 2023, Vol. 250, No. 4


Mountain Valley Gets Key Approval to Restart Construction

Mountain Valley Gets Key Approval to Restart Construction  

The Biden administration cleared clearing a major hurdle for developers of the 303-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline went it concluded restarting construction of the pipeline will not create significant jeopardy for endangered species, including rare fish that live along its path.

The key opinion from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and released by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), was needed before other federal agencies could issue permits for restarting unfinished sections of the project. 

Most of the unfinished portions of the pipeline cross streams and rivers or cross into the Jefferson National Forest in Virginia – areas where federal permits are required. 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Forest Service now are expected to finalize those approvals as early as this spring. 

The determination by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service become crucial following a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that set aside an earlier 2022 biological opinion, determining  impacts of the pipeline project on the Roanoke logperch had not been taken into consideration.  

Joint developers of the project, Equitrans Midstream and NextEra, say the pipeline is 94% completed. 

French Court Dismisses Lawsuit Over Uganda Pipeline Project 

A French civil court has ruled as inadmissible, a lawsuit brought by opponents of  energy major’s oil projects in Uganda and Tanzania.  

In the 2019 filing, six French and Ugandan activist groups said TotalEnergies had not fully considered the protection of the people and environment that faced potential harm from the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) and the Tilenga oil development. 

The petitioners wanted the court to order a halt to both projects, basing on a French law that requires companies to identify human rights and environmental risks in their global operations and take measures to prevent them. 

The French civil court dismissed the request, saying that only a judge examining the case in greater detail could assess the petitioners claim against TotalEnergies, and then undertake an audit of operations. 

TotalEnergies told Reuters that the court had found it “formally established a vigilance plan comprising the five items required by the duty of vigilance law, in sufficient detail so as not to be considered purely summary.” 

TotalEnergies previously argued that a French court did not have jurisdiction over the overseas activities of its subsidiary, TotalEnergies EP Uganda. 

Europe Moves Toward Hydrogen Pipeline Network Development 

Norwegian producer Equinor and German energy firm RWE signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to develop large-scale projects between the two companies, including renewable generation, hydrogen and natural gas. 

The companies are planning the construction of combined-cycle gas turbines (CCGTs) in Germany and blue hydrogen production facilities in Norway, which would involve the construction of hydrogen pipelines between the two countries, and development of offshore wind farms for green hydrogen production.  

Blue hydrogen is where hydrogen is produced from natural gas and the resulting CO2 is removed via carbon sequestration and storage (CSS). Green hydrogen is produced by splitting water using renewable energy and electrolysis. 

Prior to the Ukraine invasion, Germany imported much of its natural gas from Russia (35%), followed by Norway (27%) and The Netherlands (13%). But by the end of 2022, Norway (43%), provided most of the natural gas, followed by the Netherlands (29%) and Belgium (22%), according to Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis data. 

Enbridge to Buy $335 Million US Gulf Coast Gas Storage Facility  

Canada-based Enbridge plans to buy a gas storage facility in Tres Palacios in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico coast for $335 million to strengthen its LNG export business. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter. 

The Tres Palacios gas storage facility has a capacity of 35 Bcf and serves gas-fired power generation in Texas and Mexico. 

Additionally, the pipeline operator will proceed with the construction of the Enbridge Houston Oil Terminal for an initial cost of $240 million. 

“We will continue to maintain the flexibility to execute on other accretive, value-enhancing activities such as tuck-in acquisitions and returning additional capital to shareholders,” Chief Executive Greg Ebel said in a written statement. 

Oil Company Cites Pipeline Attack for Environmental Damage 

An attack on an oil pipeline near a refinery in Barrancabermeja, Colombian, caused environmental damage but no injuries, majority state-owned Ecopetrol said. 

A spokesperson for the company said explosives were used in the attack on infrastructure used to ship crude to the refinery, operated by Ecopetrol, and on a water line, running to a dehydration plant.  

“The attack ... caused environmental damage due to spilled fluids, and (created) uncertainty in communities neighboring Ecopetrol operations,” the statement said. 

Colombian pipelines and other oil infrastructure has been damaged frequently as the result of attacks by leftist rebels or by thieves attempting to tap into the lines. Thousands of barrels of oil are stolen daily from pipelines in Colombia the government said. 

Cheniere Initiates Permitting for Key Sabine Pass Expansion 

Cheniere Energy kicked off the expansion permit process to boost LNG export capacity at its key Sabine Pass plant in Louisiana, after the company surpassed its revenue estimates, attributed to strong demand following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Sabine Pass Stage 5 plant will provide 20 mtpa of production capacity if Cheniere’s plans go through. The company said the pre-filing review process is currently underway with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission under the National Environmental Policy Act. 

The Texas-based company more than doubled its revenue to $33.43 billion for the year ended Dec. 31, after posting revenue of $15.86 billion for the previous year. 

Neste Completes Construction of Transmission Pipeline 

Neste Engineering Solutions completed construction on a 1.4-mile (2.2-km) gas transmission pipeline for Gasgrid Finland’s LNG floating terminal vessel Exemplar in Inkoo, Finland. 

The floating storage and regasification unit (FSRU) contract included engineering, procurement and construction management services of the gas transmission pipeline, as well as providing equipment needed to connect the FSRU to the main Finnish gas transmission network.  

Work began in June 2022, the first natural gas molecules from the LNG floating terminal vessel transmitting via the pipeline in December 2022. 

Blast at Shell’s Nigeria Oil Pipeline Kills 12, Police Say 

An explosion on a Shell-owned Nigerian oil pipeline killed 12 people and resulted in a fire on the company’s Rumuekpe-Nkpoku trunk line in the Rivers state.  

“The pipeline was gutted by fire,” civil defense spokesman Garuba Yabuku, civil defense spokesman said, according to Reuters, which reported there were also  five burned out vehicles at the scene of the blast. 

“Many people got burnt inside the fire, males and females,” community leader Ogbonna Francis, a farmer, told Reuters at the scene. 

Shell said an investigation by a government-led joint team would be opened to find the cause of the incident. 

Oil theft, resulting in accidents and fires, as well as pipeline sabotage are common in the southern oil production heartland of Nigeria.  

Enagas Buys Gas Pipeline Network in Northwestern Spain  

Spanish grid operator Enagas acquired an 80-mile (130-km) gas pipeline network from energy firm Reganosa, while selling the latter a 25% stake in its El Musel regasification plant in northern Spain, the two companies announced. 

The purchase price of the network, described by Enagas as “key to ensuring security of supply and the proper functioning of the Iberian gas market,” $57.3 million (54 million euros), the companies said in a joint statement. 

The distribution network provides natural gas directly to several infrastructures in the country’s northwestern region of Galicia, where Reganosa is based. 

Meanwhile, Reganosa secured a 25% stake in Enagas’ El Musel regasification plant for $101.4 million (95 million euros). 

Located in the northern city of Gijon, the plant has a storage capacity of 300,000 cubic meters of LNG and is set to deliver up to 8 Bcm of LNG annually, once it begins operations. 

Argentina’s Gas Project with Petronas Close to Final Decision  

Argentina’s state-controlled YPF and Malaysia’s Petronas expect to make a final decision next year on whether to invest in the first phase of a massive $60 billion natural gas project in Argentina, the head of YPF. 

A delegation of technicians from Petronas traveled to Argentina in February to plan for the project, Reuters reported. Its first phase is expected to require at least $5 billion in investment to build facilities capable of producing up to 5 mtpa of LNG. 

Drilling rigs could be imported for the upstream portion of the gas project as in an effort to secure sufficient specialized equipment, YPF CEO Pablo Luliano said at the CERAWeek conference in Houston. 

Additionally, YPF expects a final investment decision in 2023  on whether it will go forward with a midstream project that would integrate a pipeline from the Vaca Muerta region with a terminal in order to supply supertankers for export, according to Luliano. Construction could begin between late 2023 and early 2024. 

The gas line’s first phase is set to complete construction in June, while a tender for the second phase is expected in the second quarter as the government engages in talks with funds from Saudi Arabia and China to secure bank financing, Argentina's energy secretary Flavia Royon said in Houston. 

Argentina sits on one of the world’s largest shale gas reserves, but the cash-strapped nation still must import fuel to generate electricity. Its energy deficit last year was estimated at $5 billion. 

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