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Pipeline Opportunities Conference Draws Record Crowd
Harper noted that for the past two to three years the focus on the Columbia Gas (or Peco) system has mainly on been on developing and growing working storage capacity. “We currently have 37 gas storage fields on that system with a working gas capacity of 252 to 255 Bcf and are in the process of expanding three of those fields.
“Recently our focus has been on addressing the needs of Marcellus Shale,” he said. “I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about it and you will be hearing a lot more. This could be one of the largest gas plays in North American history.”
Harper also discussed the challenges associated with shale production.
Noting that millions of acres have been acquired to bring on new gas production, he cautioned that the two major challenges shale producers face are gas quality and water.
“From a gas quality standpoint, especially at the southern end, operators have encountered high ethanol concentrations,” he said. “What you see in a normal pipeline stream is 2 to 7 percent ethanol. What we’re seeing right now from the test wells is 12 to 17 percent ethanol, which will have to be stripped out. We have been involved in a joint venture with Mark West on a couple of fields so far. I’m sure we will be sitting down with some of the other players as well to address the gathering and processing needs of this particular area.
“The Btu content of this gas is also upward of 1130, and what we need in our pipeline stream is about 1030 to 1035. So you can see this is very hot gas.”
The Marcellus also has a very high concentration of water. Because states don’t always have limits on water withdrawls, this is of growing concern. For example, both Pennsylvania and New York are starting to clamp down on the producers and require special permitting before any drilling can take place,” he explained.
Harper also indicated that some of his excitement about the Marcellus Shale area had to a lot to do with the fact that the Columbia system has a huge footprint over the Marcellus Shale area. “Our footprint, from a gathering to major transmission, covers a significant part of the Marcellus Shale,” he said.
Harper was also quick to point out that at this time they did not have either the producer push or the market pull to justify building a major, significant big-inch pipe across the region. “So, what we’re doing right now is expanding our system, phase by phase, adding to certain projects,” he said.