Category Archives: Pennsylvania

Natural gas growth means more pipelines in Chesco

WEST CHESTER – Local officials look to Columbia Gas Transmission’s plans to install another pipeline as an inevitable progression in Chester County due to the growth of the natural gas business in Pennsylvania.

“As I’ve often said, Chester County is already pipeline-central, and their numbers are going to increase, not decrease, in the years ahead,” said State Senator Andy Dinniman, D-19th of West Whiteland. “I am not against natural gas. I am for protecting our communities, our property values and our natural resources like the Brandywine Creek against harm from companies simply looking to get their product to ports in Philadelphia, Wilmington or Baltimore – or anywhere else – as quickly as possible.”

Columbia Gas Transmission is planning to install 8.8 miles of natural gas pipeline that will travel from the Eagle Compression Station and into West Bradford.

State Senator Andy Dinniman on Friday said that the natural gas pipeline proposed for Chester County by Columbia Gas Transmission is only the latest and will certainly be followed by others as the natural gas industry moves more and more Marcellus Shale natural gas to market.

Dinniman said this is why he took the lead last year in demanding the strictest state oversight of Williams Gas Pipeline’s 7-mile pipeline replacement project, and why he is introducing a three-bill package aimed at increasing the public’s ability to stay informed about pipeline projects and at protecting people’s homes, communities, and taxpayer-funded farmland from being harmed by pipeline projects.

According to Chevalier Mayes, communications manager for NiSource Gas Transmission & Storage, the pipeline, 26 inches in diameter, will affect 180 landowners in the pipeline’s right-of-way once construction for the project begins, which is anticipated to begin in April 2015. The pipeline is expected to be operational in September of that year, and would lie adjacent to an existing pipeline which is also owned by NiSource, parent company of Columbia Gas.

Mayes also said that the expansion project is a planned response for the need to meet increased demand for additional capacity in natural gas traveling through pipelines.

Columbia’s next steps for the project will be to enter into the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s pre-filing process. The purpose of requesting entry into the commission’s pre-filing process is to allow stakeholder and environmental issues to be identified and resolved at earlier stages in the project’s development and planning. According to Martin Indars, spokesman for state Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19th of West Whiteland, the pre-filing process is expected to begin later this month.

Tommy Ryan, township manager of West Bradford, said that although representatives from NiSource, the parent company of Columbia Gas, had reached out late last year to advise them of their intended pipeline, he hopes that communication will not cease there. While NiSource representatives have contacted residents in the pipeline’s Right of Way, as well as to those within 50 feet of it, Ryan said he expects regular updates from NiSource as they move through the approval and installation process. About 14 properties will be directly affected by the pipeline in West Bradford.

According to Mayes, once they have entered into the pre-filing process, Columbia representatives will notify the public through open houses and other informational events. Those types of meetings will be ongoing throughout the project until the pipeline is operational.

A toll-free number will become available at an unknown later date and company representatives will be available to answer any questions stakeholders may have.

The pipeline is part of Columbia’s Side Expansion project, which will feature looping pipelines in both Chester County and Gloucester County, N.J. The pipeline will cross wetlands and waterways in the area; however, the exact number of crossings has not yet been determined.


Natural gas-fueled power plant in Lawrence County gets site approval

A $750 million plant in Lawrence County, powered by Marcellus shale gas, could begin generating electicity by 2016, officials said.

LS Power Development LLC received North Beaver supervisors’ approval this week to build a 900-megawatt plant along the Mahoning River at the site of a former American Cyanamid Co. explosives manufacturing plant. Construction could begin early next year.

The New Jersey-based company needs state and federal permits, and the state Department of Environmental Protection is reviewing several requests, project manager Casey Carroll said on Wednesday.

“We’re trying to respond to the large number of proposed retirements — some 3,000 megawatts” of power generation capacity in northwest Pennsylvania and northeast Ohio, he said, addressing how the company chose the location. One megawatt can power about 800 homes.

The proposed Hickory Run Energy Station also needs access to high-voltage lines, interstate natural gas pipelines and a water supply source.

LS Power’s project is moving forward as electric generation companies are closing less efficient coal-fired plants or converting them to run on cheaper natural gas before tougher federal air pollution standards take effect in 2015.

FirstEnergy Corp. of Akron, American Electric Power of Columbus and GenOn Energy Inc., which NRG Energy of Princeton, N.J., acquired for $1.7 billion in December, along with other operators announced closings of dozens of plants last year.

Natural gas plants account for 95 percent of generation planned in grid operator PJM Interconnection LLC’s territory covering 13 states and the District of Columbia, spokeswoman Paula DuPont-Kidd said. Wind used to be the fastest-growing sector, she said.

Pending deactivations of coal-fired plants add up to more than 16,000 megawatts of generating capacity, PJM documents show.

Carroll said LS Power, with offices in East Brunswick, N.J., and St. Louis, has a contract to buy the Hickory Run site off Route 551, about 45 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.

Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. owns and operates the gas lines that would supply the plant, and has a system that runs from the Gulf Coast to the Northeast.

Carroll said 500 workers would be needed to build the plant, with an estimated payroll of $100 million. The completed power station will employ 25.

LS Power owns or is developing power plants that run on natural gas, coal or renewables such as wind and solar, and is building high-voltage transmission lines, its website said. In Pennsylvania, the company has a natural gas-fired plant under development in Berks County.


Natural-gas royalties could top $1.2 billion in Pennsylvania

Private landowners are reaping billions of dollars in royalties each year from the boom in natural gas drilling, transforming lives and livelihoods even as the windfall provides only a modest boost to the broader economy.

In Pennsylvania alone, royalty payments could top $1.2 billion for 2012, according to an Associated Press analysis that looked at state tax information, production records, and estimates from the National Association of Royalty Owners.

For some landowners, the unexpected royalties have made a big difference.

“We used to have to put stuff on credit cards. It was basically living from paycheck to paycheck,” said Shawn Georgetti, who runs a family dairy farm in Avella, about 30 miles southwest of Pittsburgh.

Natural gas production has boomed in many states over the past few years, as advances in drilling opened up vast reserves buried in deep shale rock, such as the Marcellus formation in Pennsylvania and the Barnett in Texas.

Nationwide, the royalty owners association estimates, natural gas royalties totaled $21 billion in 2010, the most recent year for which it has conducted a full analysis. Texas paid the most in gas royalties that year, about $6.7 billion, followed by Wyoming at $2 billion and Alaska at $1.9 billion.

Exact estimates of natural gas royalty payments aren’t possible because contracts and wholesale prices of gas vary, and specific tax information is private. But some states release estimates of the total revenue collected for all royalties, and feedback on thousands of contracts has led the royalty owners association to conclude that the average royalty is 18.75 percent of gas production.

“Our fastest-growing state chapter is our Pennsylvania chapter, and we just formed a North Dakota chapter,” said Jerry Simmons, the director of the association, which was founded in 1980 and is based in Oklahoma. “We’ve seen a lot of new people, and new questions.”

Simmons said he hasn’t heard of anyone getting less than 12.5 percent, and that’s also the minimum rate set by law in Pennsylvania.

By comparison, a 10 percent to 25 percent range is similar to what a top recording artist might get in royalties from CD sales, while a novelist normally gets a 12.5 percent to 15 percent royalty on hardcover book sales.

Before Range Resources drilled a well on the family property in 2012, Georgetti said, he was stuck using 30-year-old equipment, with no way to upgrade without going seriously into debt.

“You don’t have that problem anymore. It’s a lot more fun to farm,” Georgetti said.


Dominion Resources plans $1.5 billion pipeline and processing deal for Ohio Utical shale gas

RICHMOND, Va. – Dominion Resources Inc., parent company of Dominion East Ohio Gas, is partnering with a Dallas company to build natural gas processing plants and pipelines to the plants from gas wells in Ohio and parts of Pennsylvania.

In a joint statement issued Thursday, Dominion and Caiman Energy II, LLC said they would sign a $1.5 billion joint venture by the end of the month.

Blue Racer Midstream LLC will be an equal partnership between Dominion and Caiman, with Dominion contributing existing equipment and facilities valued at about $800 million and Caiman contributing the additional funding over time, the companies said.

The development is expected to help the state’s gas and oil industry grow more smoothly because it will provide the necessary pipeline capacity and processing plants immediately to market the gas as it flows from the new wells.

The absence of gas processing plants and pipelines to newly drilled remote wells has hampered Ohio shale gas development, say analysts, creating a kind of chicken and egg situation because such expensive projects could not be built without the certainty that the wells would be drilled.

Dominion will also contribute a processing plant now under construction in Natrium, W. Va., just across the Ohio River, as well as a large diameter pipeline already connecting the plant to Dominion East Ohio’s gathering pipeline system. The plant is being built next to an older but similar facility.

Earlier this year, East Ohio converted part of its major north-south pipeline system in Ohio to move gas from Ohio Utica shale fields to the Natrium processing plant. The lines were built decades ago to move gas from West Virginia and southern Ohio to the heavy industries in Northeast Ohio, industries that have either shrunk or disappeared.

Blue Racer Midstream’s initial plan is to convert more of East Ohio’s major pipelines to “wet gathering lines” and feed the unprocessed gas from thousands of wells the industry anticipates will be drilled in the Utica shale to the Natrium plant.

The plant will clean up raw or rich gas from the wells, removing oils and then separating the more valuable industrial gases — butane, propane, and ethane — from the methane that will become heating or natural gas.

The various gases and oils can then be shipped from the plant to multiple markets, said the companies, either by truck, railroad, pipeline or barge facilities.

“The Utica shale has enormous potential to provide jobs and revenues for the local Ohio economy,” said Thomas F. Farrell II, Dominion’s chairman, president and chief executive officer, in a prepared statement.

Jack Lafield, Caiman’s chairman and chief executive officer, said Dominion “brings well-positioned assets and experienced operations for gathering, processing, fractionating and delivering natural gas and liquids produced from the Utica shale field.”

Three other similar projects are also under way.

Earlier this month, a partnership of companies led by M3 Midstream, LLC, of Houston, announced its $1 billion gas processing plant under constructionin Columbiana County is on schedule to open in May 2013. Chesapeake Energy had been part of the group but sold its share.

In early November, two Denver companies, MarkWest Energy Partners, a gas transportation and processing company, and Antero Resources, a gas producer, partnered with a Texas investment company, the Energy and Minerals Group, to build processing plants and pipelines in Nobel County. State officials estimated the initial investment at $500 million.

In July, NiSource, Inc., parent company of Columbia Gas of Ohio, announced a joint venture with Texas exploration and production company Hilcorp Energy Co. to build about 50 miles of pipeline and a gas processing plant in the state. NiSource estimated the initial cost at about $300 million. In this latest announced project, Dominion intends to contribute its existing gas gathering pipeline system with an eye toward expanding its capacity to move at least 2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day.


New Pipeline carrying Marcellus Shale gas

The impact of the Marcellus Shale natural gas boom is about to reach a corner of South Jersey.

Surveyors have started several months of work in Gloucester County as part of a planned major pipeline expansion project to carry gas from northern Pennsylvania to the country’s Northeast and Mid-Atlantic markets.

Dubbed the East Side Expansion project, it is expected to cost $210 million and it had not yet received approval of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Most of the work would be on right-of-way owned by Columbia Gas Transmission L.L.C., a subsidiary of Houston’s NiSource Gas Transmission & Storage, said Chevalier Mayes, a NiSource spokeswoman.

Construction would begin in early 2015 and end in the fall of that year, the company said.

In Gloucester County, Woolwich Township Administrator Jane DiBella said the pipeline would run along the Columbia Gas right-of-way parallel to Center Square Road, which extends from Logan Township into Swedesboro.

The Gloucester County leg is just a small segment of a project covering four states. The main line is to run from Milford, in Pennsylvania’s Pike County, to Loudoun County, Va.

The Gloucester branch would connect to the main north-south pipeline in Chester County and cross the Delaware River to bring gas to Columbia Gas’ existing redistribution facility in West Deptford, according to a map accompanying a solicitation of bids for the pipeline project.

 A planned Nov. 5 presentation by Columbia Gas officials to the Woolwich Township Committee was canceled because the company was involved in recovery operations related to Hurricane Sandy, DiBella said. The public session is expected to be rescheduled.


Piedmont Natural Gas Announces Investment in Constitution Pipeline Project

Piedmont Natural Gas today announced its equity investment in Constitution Pipeline Company, LLC, a natural gas pipeline project slated to transport natural gas supplies from the prolific Marcellus supply region in northern Pennsylvania to major northeastern markets. The project is scheduled to be in service by March 2015. Piedmont Natural Gas, through its wholly-owned subsidiary Piedmont Constitution Pipeline Company, LLC, joins Williams Partners L.P.  and Cabot Oil and Gas Corporation  as a 24 percent equity participant in the joint venture, and will invest an estimated $180 million in the new project.

Thomas E. Skains, Piedmont’s Chairman, President, and CEO commented on the Company’s involvement, “Piedmont’s equity participation in the Constitution Pipeline project aligns very well with our strategic focus on expanding our investments in complementary energy-related businesses as a means of enhancing shareholder value.”  Skains continued, “We are excited about making an investment in strategic pipeline infrastructure in the Marcellus supply basin that will transport clean, low cost natural gas supplies to premium East Coast markets and provide substantial benefits for both natural gas producers and consumers.  We are equally excited to be joining such strong joint venture partners as Williams Partners and Cabot Oil and Gas, as both are outstanding companies and widely respected in our industry.”

An affiliate of Williams Partners will construct, operate, and maintain the new 30-inch, 121-mile long transmission pipeline that is being designed with sufficient capacity to transport 650,000 dekatherms of natural gas per day (a quantity of natural gas that can serve approximately 3 million homes) from established Marcellus production areas in Susquehanna County of northern Pennsylvania.   The pipeline will connect with the Iroquois Gas Transmission and Tennessee Gas Pipeline systems in Schoharie County, New York and is already fully contracted with long-term commitments from established natural gas producers currently operating in Pennsylvania; Piedmont will not be a customer of Constitution Pipeline.  Williams Partners will maintain a 51 percent ownership share, Cabot Oil and Gas a 25 percent share, and Piedmont Natural Gas, through its wholly owned subsidiary, a 24 percent share in the pipeline venture.

“Williams Partners enjoys a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship with Piedmont as a customer on our Transco pipeline system and as a joint venture partner in existing pipeline and storage infrastructure projects in North Carolina. We are delighted to expand that relationship with Piedmont as a new partner in the Constitution Pipeline,” said Alan Armstrong, chief executive officer of Williams Partners.  “Constitution is a key component of the Susquehanna Supply Hub that Williams Partners is expanding to connect Marcellus Shale producers like Cabot and Southwestern Energy with the highest-value markets.

“The Constitution Pipeline is a great example of the kind of leadership and investment –from energy-infrastructure providers like Williams Partners, utilities like Piedmont and producers like Cabot – that we believe is key to building the foundation our nation needs to realize the full benefits of the new abundance of long-lived, clean-burning natural gas supplies in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale and elsewhere in North America.”

The Constitution Pipeline project was first announced in February 2012 by Williams Partners and Cabot Oil and Gas. Construction of the new pipeline is expected to begin in April 2014 with an in-service date of March 2015. Constitution Pipeline is currently in the pre-filing process with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the federal agency charged with the regulation of interstate pipelines.  Constitution Pipeline plans to file a formal certificate application with the FERC in the spring of 2013.  More information about the Constitution Pipeline project can be found at

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Gov. Corbett: Marcellus betters society

PHILADELPHIA — Gov. Tom Corbett on Thursday placed high hopes on the development of the Marcellus Shale to help him achieve his goals for Pennsylvania.

“I’m convinced that we’re beginning a new industrial revolution for the U.S. and especially for Pennsylvania,” he said at the Marcellus Shale Coalition’s annual Shale Gas Insight Conference in Philadelphia.

By the end of his tenure, which he hopes will be in six years, the governor envisions having accomplished three things.

“I want the state on sound financial footing,” he said. “I want the state to be able to say that every Pennsylvanian who wants a job has a job. And I want every person in this state trained and educated for the jobs of the 21st century.”

The gas industry’s economic contribution to the state is furthering those goals, he said.

“The Marcellus boom isn’t simply about advancing business. It’s about advancing society,” Corbett said.

In fact, during recent travels to Germany and France, the governor touted the region’s cheap energy and strategic location for foreign businesses looking to locate in the U.S.

Corbett said the anti-severance tax crowd was vindicated last week when the state received its first round of impact fee payments that neared $200 million.

“We got that right,” he said. “That’s the difference between throwing together a quick fix and planning for real progress.”

A severance tax would have brought in half of that, he said. Last week, the Pennsylvania Budget & Policy Centerdisagreed.

As convention center security kept watch over the planned anti-fracking protests outside of the building, Corbett also fired some shots at those who oppose natural gas extraction.

“We are advancing even in the face or unreasoning opposition,” he said. “Opponents agree that we can land a rover on Mars, but can’t bring themselves to think that we can safely drill a mile into our own soil.”

The governor also credited shale development with saving one of the three Philadelphia refineries that were on the chopping block at this time last year.

On Sept. 19, Philadelphia Energy Solutions announced its plans to process shale gas at the former Sunoco refinery.

Corbett said he can easily see a time when all three refineries will be turning Marcellus gas into liquid fuels and chemical feedstocks.

The governor apologized to the crowd for missing last year’s conference because of flooding in southeastern Pennsylvania and thanked participants for creating jobs in the state. As he walked out to music resembling the theme from Star Wars, Corbett received a partial standing ovation.


Pittsburgh-area site is chosen for major refinery

Shell Oil Co. has chosen a site near Pittsburgh for a major, multi-billion-dollar petrochemical refinery that could create thousands of construction jobs and provide a huge economic boost to the region.

Dan Carlson, Shell’s General Manager of New Business Development, said Thursday that the company signed a land option agreement with Horsehead Corp. to evaluate a site near Monaca, about 35 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.

The so-called ethane cracking, or cracker, plant would convert ethane from bountiful Marcellus Shale natural gas liquids into more profitable chemicals such as ethylene, which are then used to produce everything from plastics to tires to antifreeze.

The plants are called crackers because they use heat and other processes to break the ethane molecules into smaller chemical components. A cracker plant looks very similar to a gasoline refinery, with miles of pipes and large storage tanks. The final complex could cover several hundred acres.

Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania had all sought the plant and offered Shell major tax incentives. Monaca is about 15 miles from both the Ohio and West Virginia borders, so workers in all three states are likely to benefit.

Shell has said that it could spend several billion dollars to build the plant, and that the complex would attract a wide range of industry and suppliers to nearby locations. But actual construction is still years away. The company said the next steps are environmental and design studies and further economic analysis, then permits.

One lifelong resident of the Pennsylvania township almost broke down on hearing the news.

“Oh my God. It makes me want to cry. That’s just the best news,” said Christie Floyd-Gabel, Potter Township’s secretary.

It’s also an unexpected turn for Horsehead’s zinc factory on the banks of the Ohio River, which is currently operating. In September the company announced plans to shut the factory by 2013 and relocate to North Carolina, along with most of its 600 workers.

“That was a major loss,” Floyd-Gabel said of Horsehead’s plans to depart, adding that’s it’s amazing that another major corporation may come in to replace Horsehead.

Ali Alavi, a Horsehead spokesman, said the company would have to vacate the over 300-acre site by April 30, 2014, under the terms of the option agreement with Shell.

Shell said the Horsehead site had the mix of resource and transportation attributes “to accommodate facilities for a world scale petrochemical complex and potential future expansions.”

The American Chemistry Council, in a report last year, estimated the new petrochemical complex could attract up to $16 billion in private investment. Shell estimated the core plant could employ several hundred people and create up to 10,000 construction jobs.

Gov. Tom Corbett said at a press conference that the plant could lead to the “renewal of a significant manufacturing base in southwestern Pennsylvania,” but cautioned that the announcement is “the first pitch in a nine-inning game.”

If the plant is built, Shell would be able to supply it partly with gas from its own wells, giving it more control over supply and costs. The company paid $4.7 billion in 2010 for drilling rights to about 650,000 acres in the region.

That also means that Shell could benefit even from the low wholesale prices that have worried some gas drillers, since a cracker plant’s raw material costs would be lower.

Labor leaders welcomed the announcement.

Frank Snyder, secretary-treasurer for the Pennsylvania AFL/CIO, said it represented “some of the most positive economic news for the working families of western Pennsylvania in over a generation.”

“Indeed, all of Pennsylvania can have hope this spring in the anticipated partnership between a world class workforce and a world class business,” said Snyder.

Shell’s choice may also represent an indication of just how strongly the industry feels about the vast gas reserves in nearby underground shale rock formations, given the multi-billion dollar commitments it has made. Carlson told The Associated Press that any plant must be economically competitive with existing cracker plants in Louisiana and Texas, and even with international plants.

The Marcellus Shale, which lies thousands of feet underground, has attracted a rush of major oil companies, who have drilled almost 5,000 new wells in the last five years. The Marcellus covers large parts of Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and West Virginia, and drillers have also started to tap the adjacent, deeper Utica Shale formation.

Ohio and West Virginia officials had made all-out efforts to attract the plant. Last year West Virginia Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette said, “We intend to compete with the last breath in our body to attract one or more crackers,” and both West Virginia’s and Ohio’s governor flew to Houston to meet with Shell officials.

West Virginia offered to slash property tax rates for 25 years in exchange for at least $2 billion worth of investment. Pennsylvania offered 15 years of tax breaks and Ohio also reportedly courted Shell with major incentives.

Corbett said he can’t disclose the full details of the tax breaks Shell has been offered because of a confidentiality agreement, and because negotiations are continuing.

George Jugovic, president of the environmental group PennFuture, said it’s still researching the possible impacts of a cracker plant.

Several other companies are also reportedly considering building similar petrochemical plants in the region.


$67 million requested for pipeline safety

Federal pipeline safety programs would get an extra $67 million and nearly 120 new employees under a proposal President Obama announced Monday that brought cheers from safety advocates pushing to address accidents and growing safety concerns.

The request, part of the president’s $3.8 trillion plan, would almost double the number of enforcement agents nationwide, according to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. The increase also would cover improvements from research to accident investigation to information databases, according to an agency news release.

Pennsylvania safety officials and advocates and the national safety group Pipeline Safety Trust all urged Congress to approve the funding, though Republican leaders have said the president’s budget will be dead on arrival there.

Obama’s plan doesn’t provide a comprehensive solution to several key issues as the state’s pipeline system expands to handle the rush of shale gas, several officials said.

“It is helpful, but there are still huge gaps in pipeline safety,” said Myron Arnowitt, Pennsylvania director of Clean Water Action.

The Obama administration has been pushing for safety system upgrades for more than a year in light of deadly explosions in Allentown, Philadelphia and suburban San Francisco.

Pennsylvania has a growing expanse of pipeline from shale gas development and one of the country’s oldest home heating gas transport and distribution systems. Utility and pipeline companies were spending about $800 million annually going into 2011 to beef up the system, in part to meet increasing federal safety demands.

State lawmakers in December passed rules that will allow them to receive federal funding and hire 12 to 15 inspectors. The Public Utility Commission still wants Congress to pass the increase as part of a general need to improve safety, spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher said.

The state has 60,000 miles of pipe, and drillers could add 25,000 miles, according to federal figures and a report from the Nature Conservancy, an Arlington, Va.-based advocacy group. Nationwide, there were 10 pipeline incidents causing six deaths, seven injuries and more than $4.2 million in damage last year, according to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s online database.

Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission plans to expand oversight rules on natural gas pipelines

State regulators are moving toward stricter oversight of natural gas pipelines, though officials say that effort began before the Allentown explosion that killed five people one year yesterday.

“We’ve been really taking a close look, partly because of some of the tragic incidents, but also because of the expansion of Marcellus Shale in the state,” said Jennifer Kocher, spokeswoman for thePennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

The PUC is currently accepting public comment on a proposal that would require natural gas utilities to annually submit pipeline replacement and performance plans.

If the new rules — proposed on Nov. 10 — take effect, utilities with intrastate operating revenues of more than $40 million would have to file plans this spring or summer with final approval scheduled for late 2012 or early 2013.

The plans basically require utilities to submit replacement time frames for aging pipes as well as updates on damage prevention and corrosion control efforts.

The PUC said it is also enhancing “frost patrol” reviews — winter surveys that gas utilities conduct to assess how safely pipes can endure freezing temperatures — to demand more frequent and detailed updates.

The state said it regularly reviews safety protocols, though it acknowledged the Feb. 9, 2011, explosion added urgency.

The explosion, which leveled an entire block of homes on North 13th Street, is believed to have resulted from a break in a UGI Utilities natural gas main.

The PUC said a surge in natural gas drilling relating to Marcellus Shale as well as a need to bring state standards in better compliance with evolving federal regulations influenced the changes.

Reading-based UGI said it supports the state revisions. The company said it began upgrading procedures before the blast, though it admitted making further improvements, such as conducting more comprehensive leak surveys, after the explosion.

That coincides with the company’s accelerated timeframe for replacing cast-iron pipe with high-density plastic or coated steel, UGI spokesman Joseph Swope said. 

“We have been aggressive,” Swope said. “We have accelerated those plans.”

Other nearby utilities said the explosion prompted a review of safety protocols, though none said they changed policy directly because of the Allentown blast.

PECO Gas spokesman Ben Armstrong said the company, which serves Bucks, Montgomery, and other counties, spends about $80 million a year to maintain its natural gas system.

Armstrong said PECO conducts walking surveys on all transmission pipelines every two months, leak inspections every six months, and annual inspection of valves, among other reviews.

“None of the procedures were revised directly because to the incidents in Allentown or Philadelphia,” Armstrong said, referring to another explosion last year that killed a Philadelphia Gas Works employee. “We have a vigorous maintenance and inspection system in place.”

Elizabethtown Gas, a subsidiary of AGL Resources serving Warren and Hunterdon counties, said system upgrades are ongoing irrespective of the blast.

Spokesman Duane Bourne said Elizabethtown is completing a $108 million improvement plan approved by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities that would replace 70 miles of aging cast-iron pipe across its New Jersey service area. Work began in 2009.