On January 24, 2018, FERC staff directed Rover Pipeline LLC (“Rover”) to stop horizontal directional drilling (“HDD”) activity—which involves using a drill to bore horizontally underground and drilling mud to remove drill cuttings and maintain the bore for a newly constructed pipeline to “cross” beneath rivers and other areas—at the Tuscarawas River site due to inadvertent losses of drilling mud. Although FERC staff found that Rover had complied with its HDD contingency plans and that drilling mud had not impacted sensitive resources, FERC staff requested Rover to provide information to assess alternate methods of crossing the Tuscarawas River.

On February 2, 2017, FERC issued a certificate of public convenience and necessity authorizing Rover to construct and operate approximately 500 miles of new pipeline and related facilities from the Appalachian supply area to an interconnection with Vector Pipeline, LP in Livingston County, Michigan. Rover began construction of the project on March 14, 2017, after which Rover began HDD activity for the “Mainline A” crossing at the Tuscarawas River site. However, in a letter dated May 10, 2017, FERC staff informed Rover that, due to inadvertent releases of HDD drilling mud from the Tuscarawas River site, Rover had to stop HDD activities at certain sites (not including the Mainline A crossing at the Tuscarawas River site) and could not commence HDD activities at sites where Rover had not yet started drilling. Subsequently, on July 12, 2017, FERC staff informed Rover that it needed to remove all HDD drilling mud from the Tuscarawas River site and nearby quarry and develop remediation, restoration, and monitoring plans in order to receive an in-service authorization (see July 17, 2017 edition of the WER). FERC staff then authorized Rover to resume HDD activity at certain sites on September 18, 2017. Rover commenced HDD activity for the “Mainline B” crossing at the Tuscarawas River site on December 28, 2017.

In its January 24, 2018 letter, FERC staff directed Rover to stop its HDD activity at the Mainline B crossing of the Tuscarawas River, due to the inadvertent loss of drilling mud during HDD activity. FERC staff noted that, although Rover was complying with its approved HDD contingency plans, Rover was unsuccessful in recovering the drilling mud. Moreover, while stating that no drilling mud had reached the surface or impacted sensitive resources, FERC staff concluded that the “difficult geology” at the site necessitated investigation into other approaches before resuming HDD activity at the Tuscarawas River site. Thus, in addition to requiring Rover to cease HDD activity at the Mainline B crossing, FERC staff directed Rover to provide information related to, among other things, (1) how Rover plans to address drilling mud losses to subsurface formations at the site in the future; (2) the feasibility of the another crossing technique for the second crossing at the Tuscarawas River; (3) the feasibility of alternate crossing locations of the Tuscarawas River; and (4) the gas volumes and pressures Rover would be able to provide if the second crossing were not completed.

A copy of FERC staff’s letter is available here.