"We can drill a lot of holes in the ground, but without a collection system to get it to market, we're wasting our time."
That is how state Sen. E. Eugene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township, explained the reason for holding Tuesday's Senate Majority Policy Committee hearing here on Marcellus Shale pipeline issues.
"This is an education process," Yaw said. "We will hopefully learn something we can take back to Harrisburg and share with our legislators."
State Sens. Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon; Edwin Erikson, R-Newtown Square; Lisa Baker, R-Lehman Township, and E. Eugene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township, talk following a Senate Majority Policy Committee Public Hearing on Marcellus Shale Pipelines at Pennsylvania College of Technology Tuesday.
The hearing at the Pennsylvania College of Technology's Thompson Professional Development Center was hosted by Yaw, who sat on a panel with committee chairman and state Sen. Edwin B. Erickson, R-Newtown Square; state Sen. Michael Folmer, R-Lebanon; and state Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Lehman Township.
The two-hour hearing included testimony from industry representatives and state and federal regulators.
Jay B. Irwin, manager of operations and technical service for Williams Midstream, told the panel his company operates more than 15,000 miles of interstate pipeline, which accounts for the transportation of about 12 percent of the nation's natural gas.
Williams Midstream is an Oklahoma-based company involved in natural gas processes, including gathering, processing and interstate transportation. The company's Transco pipeline delivers 8 percent of the nation's and 30 percent of Pennsylvania's natural gas, he said.
Irwin said his company has an excellent safety record. Most accidents involving pipeline involves third-party contractors digging in areas where gas pipes are located, he said.
Irwin said he supports the "One Call Before You Dig" system, which provides residents and contractors with a single number to call - 811 - to determine if a pipeline exists where digging is to occur.
Paul Metro, Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission Gas Safety Division chief engineer, agreed with Yaw that a safe and efficient collection system is needed if the benefits of Marcellus Shale exploration are to be fully realized. Metro explained why that system is not in place.
"Pennsylvania's current transmission pipeline infrastructure cannot be utilized for the Marcellus Shale gas due to the high pressures and volumes of gas," Metro said. "(The state's) intra-state transmission lines have limited capacity and were designed for lower pressure shallow wells. The Marcellus Shale development will require larger diameter pipelines operated at higher pressures."
Robert F. Powelson, who serves on the state Public Utilities Commission, said the state already has about 50,000 miles of pipeline in place. The problem with that pipeline, however, is that it is old.
"We have an aging infrastructure," Powelson said. "The fact of the matter is, it's probably 50 to 70 years old."
According to Metro, the state commission has adopted safety regulations consistent with federal regulations. Those regulations apply to most - but not all - natural gas gathering pipeline, he said.
in rural areas
There are four classes of pipeline, each designated according to the population density of the area in which it is located. Class I pipeline, located in rural areas with the lowest population density, requires no regulator oversight, he said.
Metro said no data exists regarding safety incidents involving Class I lines.
Mark Casaday, vice president for Penn Virginia Resource Partners LP, said that if the state decides to regulate Class I gathering lines, the regulations should be consistent with regulations already in place for other classes.
Casaday said the state must maintain exclusive regulatory power.
Allowing local municipalities or authorities to develop their own regulations for Class I gathering lines could create "a totally unworkable and highly inconsistent patchwork" of regulations that would cripple the industry or increase the cost of gas to the point no one would buy it.
Casaday recommended the state PUC create a gas pipeline safety division to handle Class I regulatory oversight.
Jessica Miller, a principal with Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co., presented a company overview and discussed plans for expanding its pipeline capacity.
The company's pipeline capacity of 700 million cubic feet per day is able to serve 3.5 million households in Pennsylvania, Miller said.
on the way
With natural gas production in the Marcellus Shale projected to increase dramatically - along with an increase in demand in the north and southeastern regions of the country - the company intends to ramp up its pipeline projects to accommodate the increased need, Miller said.
The company is proposing or already has initiated projects to expand pipeline capacity to more than 8 billion cubic feet per day, she said.
Two of the projects, which are designed to deliver natural gas to the northeast, would create 1 billion cubic feet of new capacity, she said.
The company plans to construct the pipeline along existing pipeline rights-of-way to lessen the environmental impacts, Miller said.