Dominion Energy Plans $600 Million West Virginia Gas Pipeline

RICHMOND, Va., Oct. 5 (UPI) — Dominion Energy says it is moving ahead with a proposed $600 million project to pipe natural gas from fields in West Virginia to Delmont, Pa., about 25 miles east of Pittsburgh, as part of an effort to develop the Appalachian Basin gas reserves.

The plan involves building 110 miles of pipeline and four compressor stations and will give producers much-needed access to a wider market. Dominion said completion and commissioning is scheduled for 2012.

Gas extracted from the so-called black Marcellus shale has put a spotlight on the region. Industry experts say the Appalachian Basin may contain vast reserves of gas that are yet to be tapped.

In late September Dominion began the process of securing federal approval for the project, called the Appalachian Gateway. The pre-filing process will be followed by various studies before construction begins in 2011.

Gary Sypolt, chief executive officer of Dominion Energy, said traditional production combined with Marcellus shale increased the capacity of producers to supply gas to the market.

“The Appalachian Gateway Project will lessen the bottleneck currently preventing some of the natural gas produced in West Virginia and southwest Pennsylvania from getting to customers in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic who are in need of new supplies.”

Dominion, one of the largest U.S. producers and transporters of energy, operates the country’s largest natural gas storage system, with 975 billion cubic feet of storage capacity serving retail energy customers in 12 states.

Sypolt said the project is fully subscribed by Marcellus shale and other Appalachian natural gas producers. Once commissioned the project will deliver 484,260 dekatherms of natural gas daily to Dominion and Spectra’s jointly owned Oakford facility in Delmont, Pa.

The Marcellus shale has excited resource industries since the black substance first came to the attention of geologists. The shale’s slightly radioactive signature made it an easy pick for scientists. But early drilling produced commercially unattractive quantities.

More recently, experts began predicting that the Appalachian Basin might be home to a “super giant” gas field.

The low density, carbonaceous shale extends in the subsurface from southern New York state across Pennsylvania and into western Maryland, West Virginia, and eastern Ohio. Small areas of Maryland, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia are also known to contain the shale.

A 2002 U.S. Geological Survey calculated that the Marcellus shale contained an undiscovered resource of about 1.9 trillion cubic feet of gas.

In 2008 Terry Englander, a geoscience professor at Pennsylvania State University, and Gary Lash, a geology professor at the State University of New York at Fredonia, cited estimates that the shale might contain more than 500 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

However, recovery requires huge amounts of water, which makes commercially viable exploitation of the shale controversial among environmentalists and communities, analysts said.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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