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New Marcellus Shale Pipeline Projects

The Marcellus Shale, an enormous natural gas reserve in Appalachia, is dramatically altering the traditional landscape of America’s natural gas industry.

Stretching across almost 100,000 square miles, the Marcellus Shale is the largest natural gas supply in the U.S. and second in the world. The depth and width of the Marcellus Formation vary, but studies indicate the shale’s deepest and thickest points are located in northeastern Pennsylvania, making it a prime area for drilling.

Estimates of the amount of recoverable natural gas in the reserve have varied over the years. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the Marcellus Shale produced 3.9 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of recoverable natural gas in 2013- accounting for 18% of the country’s natural gas. In August 2011, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) estimated the Marcellus shale will ultimately generate a total of 84 TcF of technically recoverable natural gas, a massive jump from its 2002 prediction of two trillion cubic feet.

Pipelines Under Pressure

As the Marcellus Shale’s natural gas production increases, so does the need for an efficient, modern, sophisticated pipeline system to transport the natural gas to various regions around the country. In 2012, Marcellus’ booming natural gas output caused pipelines to bottleneck. Such high load conditions inflict stress on pipelines essential to the country’s natural gas delivery system.

The following year, pipeline constraints were a major contributing factor to exorbitant natural gas prices in the Northeast region. The rest of the country was not exposed to the increased costs due to adequate pipelines with few constraints.

To help alleviate stress on current infrastructures, The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved three pipeline projects in February 2014. The projects include Texas Eastern’s TEAM 2014 Project, Williams’ Constitution Pipeline, and Iroquois Pipeline’s Wright Interconnect Project. All three projects have in-service dates slated for 2015-2016.

Texas Eastern’s TEAM 2014 Project

Spectra Energy’s Texas Eastern Appalachia to Market Expansion 2014 (TEAM 2014) Project will add approximately 33.6 miles of 36 inch diameter pipeline loop to the existing Texas Eastern Transmission, increasing the existing system’s capacity by approximately 600 million cubic feet per day (MMcf/d). Once complete, the Texas Eastern system will deliver natural gas from Appalachia to the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest and Gulf Coast regions. The technologically advanced TEAM 2014 Project will be optimized for bidirectional flow.

Williams’ Constitutional Pipeline

The Constitution Pipeline is expected to measure 124 miles and have a diameter of 30 inches. The pipeline will transport natural gas from the Marcellus shale in northern Pennsylvania to areas in the northeastern U.S. It will have the capacity to transport 650 MMcf/d, fulfilling the daily needs of 3 million homes. The Constitution will be an “open access pipeline,” allowing local municipalities and public utility services to access the line.

Iroquois Pipeline’s Wright Interconnect Project

Iroquois’ Wright Interconnect Project (WIP) will work in tandem with the Constitutional Pipeline. Unlike the other projects approved by FERC, WIP is not a pipeline. It will update and expand Iroquois’ current compression facilities located in Wright, New York. The terminal will connect the Constitution to the Iroquois and Tennessee Gas Pipelines, facilitating the delivery of natural gas extracted from the Marcellus Play to New York and New England.

The Importance of Cathodic Protection

Propane storage tanks at MarkWest Energy Partners’ Houston fractionation and marketing complex in Washington, Pennsylvania.

Propane storage tanks at MarkWest Energy Partners’ Houston fractionation and marketing complex in Washington, Pennsylvania.

While the Marcellus Formation continues to produce high levels of natural gas, it is imperative that the operators for newly approved pipeline projects, as well as existing pipelines, storage tanks, and associated facilities take appropriate steps to protect their assets. Corrosion of metal surfaces is one of the most common and dangerous threats to midstream infrastructures. Cathodic protection is the most effective method of protecting against corrosion.

According to John Rothermel, Vice President of Sales at MATCOR, the leading cathodic protection company with expertise in protecting oil and gas pipelines from corrosion, the companies behind the Marcellus pipeline projects can’t afford not to protect their assets.
“As long as the Marcellus Shale continues to produce such unprecedented amounts of natural gas, the midstream infrastructure needed to get product to market will likely be running at full capacity, making it essential that these facilities operate reliably, efficiently and safely,” Rothermel said. “Designing and installing cathodic protection of pipelines into these projects helps to protect the significant investments being made, and helps to ensure these assets last well into the future.”

“Giant Marcellus shale coming of age” The Bismarck Tribune, March 20, 2014

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Natural Gas Production in the Utica Shale Formation to Expand

Utica Shale Petrochemical Plant

Blue Racer Midstream, a new joint venture, has announced long-term agreements with producers in Ohio and West Virginia that will expand processing capacity in the Utica Shale formation.

Several producers working with Blue Racer Midstream have plans to increase natural gas production through new wells within the year. For new drill sites, cathodic protection for wells prevent long term investments from rusting.

Blue Racer is developing 600 miles of pipeline that will cross 24 counties and will have the capacity to transport over 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas every day.

As companies like Blue Racer Midstream are investing significant assets to extract natural gas from the Utica Shale Ohio region, the need for cathodic protection equipment is paramount.

“Increased natural gas production and capacity in the Utica Shale formation in Ohio and West Virginia regions provides new opportunities for jobs and investment.  Increased domestic production of low cost, clean burning natural gas will lead to new investments in chemical and petrochemical plants in the region as reliable energy sources are extremely important for the chemical processing industry,” said Ted Huck executive vice president, practice lead – plants/facilities, at MATCOR. “With hundreds of miles of new pipeline and the development of next generation of plants and facilities in the region, cathodic protection has never been more vital to protect significant investment in the region.”

What is Cathodic Protection?

Cathodic protection is used to combat corrosion of metal surfaces. MATCOR’s use of mixed metal oxide (MMO) anode cathodic protection has become an industry standard in cathodic protection.

Blue Racer expands its midstream infrastructure,” Vindy.com, March 1, 2014.

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Bakken Oil Production Boom Could Result in Greater Cathodic Protection Needs

Bakken Oil ProductionAfter eight years of extensive oil exploration to define the Bakken formation boundaries, oil production companies are ramping up drilling operations to “harvest” the Bakken oil formation.

There are currently more than 10,000 producing wells in North Dakota, with the majority in the Bakken region. The expansion of oil production has grown at an exponential rate and the area will soon be producing 1 million barrels a day.

While there’s currently a well located on nearly all of 8,000 spacing units, there remains plenty of opportunity to increase well density in the region. In 2013, the permit applications were limited to four wells on a single 1,280 acre unit, but the maximum is expected to increase from eight to 20 wells per unit, depending on the local geology.

As oil companies drilling in the Bakken formation continue to increase well density, the region could see another phase of this oil boom.

“The Bakken area has enjoyed great success over the last decade, and with more opportunities for companies drilling in the Bakken oil field, it’s vital that they protect their assets,” said Glenn Shreffler, executive vice president, engineering at MATCOR.

“Protecting future investments from the devastation caused by the corrosion of pipelines and storage tanks is paramount as the Bakken region continues to see expansion of oil production,” said Shreffler. “Cathodic protection is among the most cost effective means and efficient ways to halt corrosion activity.”

In business for almost 40 years, MATCOR specializes in providing customized corrosion engineering and cathodic protection systems to oil and gas industries nationwide.

Oil lands claimed, the focus shifts now to ‘harvesting it,” The Bismarck Tribune, February 25, 2014.

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