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Editorial comment

The month of September provided a lot to talk about in terms of global pipeline activity, so here’s a roundup. Construction began on the 197 mile Pennsylvania section of the Atlantic Sunrise natural gas pipeline project (an expansion of Transco), following FERC approval.

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Making less headway is the 42 in. Mountain Valley gas pipeline, which saw its water quality certification (issued in March) revoked by the US Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The agency wishes to re-evaluate the project in light of the federal Clean Water Act; groups including The Sierra Club had challenged the permit approval and, faced with having to defend this decision, it looks like the DEP has backpedalled.

September has seen Hurricane Harvey cause destruction in the Grenadines and mass flooding in Texas; Irma slammed Barbuda, Cuba and the Florida coastline; and Maria caused widespread damage in Puerto Rico. Service on the Colonial pipeline was disrupted following Harvey, along with some Shell Midstream pipelines. US gas output mostly managed to escape damage from the hurricanes.

Elsewhere in North America, Oryx said it will build a 220 mile crude pipeline system in the Permian Basin that will run from New Mexico to Midland, Texas; the Rover pipeline was approved and Energy Transfer Partners has resumed HDD works following a short ban from FERC; TransCanada requested a suspension of the Energy East project application; and Desjardins Group credit union pulled funding from the Trans Mountain pipeline, as it temporarily suspended all oil pipeline lending. September also witnessed a devastating and deadly earthquake in central Mexico. Gas flow through TransCanada’s Tamazunchale pipeline to power plants was increased in response to massive power transmission line outages in the country.

Growing gas demand for power networks in Morocco is fuelling interest in a new pipeline connecting the Tendrara field in Morocco to the Gazoduc Maghreb Europe (GME) pipeline (which currently feeds Moroccan power stations with imported Algerian gas). Sound Energy has received funding of up to US$100 million for development of the field.

A group of Norway’s gas pipeline investors facing a loss of funds is attempting to challenge the government in court over its decision to cut pipeline tariffs. The government owns 45.8% of the Gassled pipeline network and cut tariffs shortly after Total, Statoil, Royal Dutch Shell and ExxonMobil bought in.

ExxonMobil is stuck in an exploratory phase in Iraqi Kurdistan, but Rosneft reports being in the late stages of talks there for a regional gas pipeline project. Rosneft is hoping to facilitate domestic gas supply in 2019, with exports to Turkey and Europe by 2020. Rosneft is proving to be a keen ally to the region, which voted on independence this month. Talking of independence, Romania had hoped to develop its Neptun block in the Black Sea, which contains an estimated 80 - 100 billion m3 of gas, with a view to becoming an important regional gas exporter. But plans to develop the field and build a pipeline from Bulgaria, through Romania and Hungary, to Austria (BRUA), are being scaled back, and a less ambitious plan to expand pipeline capacity on the existing Romania-Hungary interconnector will probably go ahead.

Already full steam ahead is the Trans Adriatic pipeline (TAP), which was 50% complete as of 7 September, with all EPC work finished and some 45% of welded steel pipes already in the ground and backfilled. Connecting with the Trans-Anatolian pipeline (TANAP) at the Greek-Turkish border, TAP will cross northern Greece, Albania and the Adriatic Sea before coming ashore in southern Italy.

Albania has been pushing for the Ionian Adriatic gas pipeline, which would run from central Albania to Croatia and then connected to TAP.

Looking further north in Europe, first pipes have been delivered for the European gas pipeline link (EUGAL). Construction is due to start in mid 2018 for the 485 km pipeline from the Baltic Sea to the German-Czech border. Staying with subsea pipelines, a proposal for a 1300 km subsea pipeline from Iran to India is on the table after the US$7 billion Iran-Pakistan ‘peace’ pipeline project stalled. The pipeline would bypass Pakistan and could deliver Persian gas cheaper than LNG.

And, finally, to matters concerning the world’s leading LNG exporter, Qatar. Saudi Aramco announced plans to send more oil through the SUMED pipeline that runs through Egypt, to transport more of its oil to European customers. Egypt is one of a handful of countries that has supported Saudi Arabia in a blockade of Qatar. Turn to p.12 for a report on the diplomatic crisis, which threatens to escalate and hamper regional security and energy projects.

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