Mountain Valley Pipeline, after years of delay and booming costs, is at the verge of completion

Mountain Valley Pipeline, after years of conflict and cost increases, could go into service later this month.

Equitrans Midstream, developer of the pipeline, expects to begin operations for MVP on May 31 as long as approval is granted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

A setback occurred last week as a section of the pipeline ruptured during pressure testing in Roanoke County, Virginia.

“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 wrote, “crews prepared the area for the work required to repair the damaged section of pipe.”

That rupture occurred while operators were conducting hydrotesting, a pressure test, filling the pipe with water. It’s one of the steps in assessing the pipeline’s integrity before it goes into operation.

MVP is a 303.5-mile interstate natural gas pipeline that  would cross nine West Virginia counties — Greenbrier, Monroe, Nicholas, Summers, Braxton, Harrison, Lewis, Webster and Wetzel — to transport natural gas to East Coast markets.

The project was first proposed in 2014, and the original in-service target date was 2018 at a cost of $3.5 billion.

The cost of the frequently-delayed pipeline project went up yet again, from the $7.6 billion estimated earlier this year to now about $7.85 billion.

Mountain Valley Pipeline

Battles in the courtroom and through regulation extended that timeline by years and the cost by billions.

The project got a boost last year when a bipartisan debt ceiling agreement in Congress included language to compel federal agencies to approve all remaining permits for the pipeline while also shielding the project from further litigation.

Shelley Moore Capito

Senator Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., this week expressed gratification that the pipeline project seems on the verge of completion.

“I worked hard to make sure we could get to the completion of this because of the impact it has on our state in terms of jobs but also providing affordable energy and also moving into the eastern part of the United States,” Capito said at a briefing with reporters.

“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.”

Equitrans Midstream on April 22 submitted a request to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to go into service, saying “Project facilities are now nearing completion and will be ready for service in May.”

The developers told FERC, “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.”

The request noted that Mountain Valley has completed construction, completed all waterbody and wetland crossings and expects all remaining segments to be welded early this month. Crews are currently conducting permanent remediation activities, including revegetating and restoring portions of the right-of-way, and will continue doing so after the underground pipeline is operational, Equitrans Midstream has said.

The memo to FERC concluded, “The Mountain Valley Pipeline is a critical infrastructure project that is essential for our nation’s energy security, consumer affordability, and the ability to effectively transition to a lower-carbon future, and we look forward to bringing the Project into service.”

In a news release last week detailing recent financial performance, Equitrans Midstream said less than one mile of the pipeline remained to be installed. “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 said.

Equitrans said the cost of the project has gone up again to $7.85 billion for several reasons.

“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 spokeswoman for Equitrans Midstream highlighted Mountain Valley’s plan to achieve carbon neutrality for the next decade.

“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.”

Environmental groups have continued to view the project with skepticism.

West Virginia Rivers Coalition sent out a request for 500 co-signers to a letter being submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to deny MVP’s in-service.

“Appalachians are no strangers to pipeline explosions — our hills and hollers, which are made up of steep slopes and highly erodible soils, are susceptible to landslides and flooding,” wrote Mariah Clay, Mountain Valley Pipeline organizer for West Virginia Rivers Coalition.

“MVP is seeking FERCs permission to put the pipeline ‘In-Service’ before the end of May, and we’re about to submit a letter to the docket telling FERC officials that West Virginians do not want the permission granted. “





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