Fischer Technology Inc.

MVP Project Approaches Completion Date

TUESDAY, MAY 7, 2024

After years of controversy and cost increases, officials expect the Mountain Valley Pipeline to begin operations by the end of this month as construction wraps up and operators finish post-construction testing.

Equitrans Midstream, the pipeline’s developer, has stated that it expects the pipeline to fully open by May 31 if it is granted approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Project Background

First approved in 2017, the Mountain Valley Pipeline project has been delayed by opposition, lawsuits and violations on construction sites over environmental regulations.

The pipeline is owned and being constructed by Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC—a joint venture between EQT Midstream Partners LP, NextEra US Gas Assets LLC, Con Edison Transmission Inc., WGL Midstream and RGC Midstream LLC. Once complete, the pipeline is slated to be operated by EQT Midstream Partners.

The pipeline is expected to run from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia, cutting through the Jefferson National Forest. The project is the smaller of two currently underway in the state of Virginia; the other is the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which is twice as long and passes through the center of the state but does not cut through Jefferson National Forest.

At the beginning of 2020, FERC released an environmental impact statement concluding that while a 75-mile-long extension into North Carolina—also known as the MVP Southgate Project—could cause some environmental damage, they were favorable of the project moving forward. 

In September 2020, on behalf of Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC, representing attorney Matthew Eggerding filed a letter with FERC in requesting that a stop-work order be lifted.  

In December 2021, two water permits were approved for the pipeline, raising concerns over its impacts on the environment and sparking lawsuits including a Virginia State Water Control Board permit for the pipeline to cross about 150 streams and wetlands in Southwest Virginia and a West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection water quality permit.

Then in April 2022, the FERC issued an order approving changes proposed for the Mountain Valley Pipeline Project, including how the pipeline will cross 183 waterbodies and wetlands.  

The application was filed by MVP in February last year to amend the original 2017 certificate for the pipeline. The order allows the developer to bore under the bodies of water instead of using the originally approved open-cut method.

The order was unanimously approved on April 8 by the FERC, according to the 72-page order.

In September 2022, with pipes intended for the long-delayed Mountain Valley Pipeline stored above ground for years, concerns were raised by residents and experts regarding the coatings, corrosion and the safety of the pipes.

In July of last year, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court ordered construction to halt again on the MVP project, as it reviewed recent challenges to the project posed by environmental groups. The order to stop construction came only shortly after approval for project completion was granted on June 28. 

Then, that August, the U.S. Supreme Court began paving the way for construction to resume on the MVP project, granting a request to lift lower court orders that had recently halted the project and delayed its completion.

The pipeline had reportedly filed an emergency application with the Supreme Court, seeking to resume the project and arguing that the 4th Circuit did not have the ability to grant relief since it “lacked jurisdiction” over the environmental groups’ permitting challenges.

The MVP partners also reportedly stated that the provision of the debt ceiling package rendered the case moot, since Congress ratified the relevant agency actions in the legal battles. MVP warned that leaving the 4th Circuit’s pause in place would delay its completion before spring 2024 and lead to increased demand for gas in regions served by the pipeline.

According to the report, the Biden Administration, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin and the GOP-led House sided with MVP in the dispute and urged the Supreme Court to lift the lower court orders.

Finally, in October 2023, The U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration announced that it had reached a consent agreement with Equitrans Midstream of the Mountain Valley Pipeline for inspections meant to validate the pipeline’s integrity.

Additionally, a recent report from Reuters stated that the PHMSA had previously released a Notice of Proposed Safety Order, outlining its issues with the developers’ construction, testing and reporting methods.

Equitrans stated that it agreed with PHMSA that outlining the steps taken by the MVP project team to complete construction could help strengthen the public’s confidence in the safe operation of the pipeline.

The PHMSA added that its inspectors were focusing on corrosion control and coating remediation for pipeline segments that had been exposed to the elements and ultraviolet radiation in recent years.

Major safety highlights of the consent agreement reportedly included:

  • Accelerating MVP’s previously planned series of inline inspections to verify the integrity of the pipeline; and
  • Accelerating the regulatory timeline for conducting comprehensive cathodic protection surveys.

Additionally, the agreement was expected to improve MVP’s current coating, remediation and inspection processes by:

  • Authorizing KTA-Tator, Inc. (KTA), an engineering firm with expertise in the evaluation of protective coatings for numerous applications, to serve as the independent, third-party party pipeline coating experts;
  • Accepting KTA’s endorsement of MVP’s pipeline coating procedures and authorizing MVP to continue implementing those procedures throughout the project’s remaining construction phase; and
  • Authorizing KTA to continue conducting a comprehensive field audit of MVP’s pipeline coating activities, including the deployment of multiple inspectors to observe ongoing coating assessment and remediation and the performance of adhesion testing at each spread.

Latest Update

According to recent reports, a setback occurred last week as a section of the pipeline ruptured during pressure testing in Roanoke County, Virginia. That incident happened while operators conducted hydrotesting by filling the pipe with water, one of the steps in assessing the pipeline’s integrity before it goes into operation.

“Inspectors investigating the complaint observed turbid water in the stream channels conveying the release water,” wrote John McCutcheon of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. A day after the rupture, he added that, “crews prepared the area for the work required to repair the damaged section of pipe.”

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However, despite this setback, U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito stated that the pipeline project seems to be on the verge of completion.

“We’re still waiting for approval. It’s almost doubled, if not doubled, in price because of all the delays, so my hope is that the final completion of ribbon cutting will occur sooner than later,” Capito said.

Included in its financial performance report at the end of last month, the Equitrans said that less than one mile of the 303-mile, 42-inch-diameter natural gas pipeline remains to be installed, though declined to specify where that last mile is, citing security concerns.

Additionally, a report from Cardinal News states that the pipeline’s lead developer believes the project may have a final price tag of around $7.85 billion, which is reportedly around $220 million more than the upper end of the range of $7.57 billion to $7.63 billion that the company had initially announced in February of this year.

Also last month, Equitrans submitted a request to the FERC to go into service, stating that “Project facilities are now nearing completion and will be ready for service in May.”

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“Timely authorization is critical to allow Mountain Valley to finalize in-service preparations and Project customers to make final preparations for supplies, scheduling, and nominations, particularly the Project customers whose long-term firm contracts for the full Project capacity will become effective June 1, 2024,” Equitrans stated.

The request added that Mountain Valley has completed construction, as well as all waterbody and wetland crossings, and is expecting all remaining segments to be welded early this month. Crews are now reportedly producing permanent remediation activities, including revegetating and restoring portions of the right-of-way.

“Remaining forward construction includes the tying in of a completed bore, the installation of pipe on a steep slope, and the tying together of the final pipeline segments after completing testing and commissioning activities,” the company wrote.

“Project costs were affected by challenging physical construction conditions, certain equipment and other issues during now-completed boring operations, unexpected challenges with certain pipeline cleaning procedures, and inclement weather.”

Natalie Cox, a spokesperson for Equitrans Midstream explained Mountain Valley’s plan to achieve carbon neutrality for the next decade.

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“The MVP project will be among the first interstate natural gas transmission pipelines in the U.S. to fully offset its operational emissions. As critical American energy infrastructure, the MVP will play an important role in helping meet state and national goals to lower greenhouse gas emissions and meet public demand for affordable, reliable energy,” she said.


Tagged categories: Environmental Protection; Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC); Government; Green Infrastructure; Health and safety; Infrastructure; Infrastructure; Inspection; Oil and Gas; Ongoing projects; PHMSA; Pipeline; Pipelines; Pipes; Program/Project Management; Safety; Testing + Evaluation


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