Thursday, October 28

Enbridge-backed PennEast becomes the latest to scuttle a natural gas pipeline project


Proposed pipeline from Pennsylvania to New Jersey runs aground due to legal, regulatory challenges

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PennEast Pipeline said on Monday it would stop developing a proposed pipeline from Pennsylvania to New Jersey, the latest in a series of natural gas lines to run aground due to legal and regulatory challenges.

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The project was one of several proposed in recent years to draw natural gas from the fast-growing Appalachian region, only to run into local or environmental opposition to more fossil-fuel infrastructure. Gas prices have surged worldwide due to rising demand and lack of supply .

In the United States, there is plenty of product available for heating and power generation. But with the cancellation of PennEast, the industry is becoming more concerned that the vast growth in Appalachia’s production will become trapped.

Much of the growth in US gas production over the past decade that turned the United States from a gas importer into one of the world’s biggest exporters of the fuel has come from the Appalachian region.

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PennEast was cancelled, the company said, because it had not yet received all of its required permits. The project was one of the last major ones in the works set to pull gas from the Marcellus/Utica formation in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, the biggest gas shale basin in the United States. Enbridge Inc. owns 20 per cent of the company, while other partners include Southern Company Gas; NJR Pipeline Company, a subsidiary of New Jersey Resources, South Jersey Industries, and UGI Energy Services (UGIES ), a subsidiary of UGI Corporation.

“The PennEast partners, following extensive evaluation and discussion, recently determined further development of the project no longer is supported,” PennEast said in an email, noting it “has ceased all further development of the project.”

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US natural gas prices are at a seven-year high, boosted by overseas demand for US liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports. Global gas prices are at a record due to low storage levels in Europe and insatiable demand in Asia.

Other East Coast gas pipes held up by regulators and legal battles include Williams Cos Inc.’s Northeast Supply Enhancement from Pennsylvania to New Jersey and New York, and Dominion Energy Inc’s Atlantic Coast from West Virginia to Virginia and North Carolina. The latter was canceled in 2020.

PennEast decided to stop development even though the US Supreme Court in June ruled in its favour in a lawsuit allowing the line to seize state-owned or controlled land in New Jersey.

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As recently as August, PennEast said it still hoped to finish the first phase of the US$1.2 billion pipe in Pennsylvania in 2022. However, the company still lacks certain permits, including a water quality certification in New Jersey.

The 120-mile (193 kilometre) pipe was designed to deliver 1.1 billion cubic feet per day of gas from the Marcellus shale to customers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. One billion cubic feet is enough gas for about five million US homes for a day.

PennEast had initially hoped to complete the project in 2019.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

With additional reporting from Financial Post Staff

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