U.S. natural gas pipeline Mountain Valley prepares for startup

(Reuters)—U.S. natural gas pipeline venture Mountain Valley Pipeline is preparing the $7.85-B pipe from West Virginia to Virginia to operate, after receiving approval from a U.S. energy regulator.

The Mountain Valley project, the biggest gas pipeline currently under construction in the Northeast, has encountered numerous regulatory and court fights that have stopped work several times since construction began in 2018.

"Final preparations are underway to begin commercial operations," a spokesperson at U.S. gas pipeline company Equitrans Midstream, the lead partner in the Mountain Valley venture, told Reuters.

Equitrans made its comments after the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved Mountain Valley's request to start the project. Equitrans could not say when gas may start to flow through the Mountain Valley pipe, which has a capacity of 2 Bft3d.

1 Bft3 is enough gas to supply about 5 MM U.S. homes for a day.

Separately, EQT CEO Toby Rice told Natural Gas Intelligence at the LDC Gas Forums Northeast conference in Boston that EQT started to bring back online some of the 1 Bft3d of production it started curtailing in February when gas prices dropped.

EQT, the nation's biggest gas producer, agreed in March to buy Equitrains in an all-stock deal, which is expected to close in the fourth quarter. That would bring back the pipeline business that EQT spun off in 2018.

Analysts expect some of EQT's increased output will flow through Mountain Valley, but noted that downstream pipeline constraints will likely prevent Mountain Valley from reaching full capacity at least for a few more months.

"Output gains are likely to remain far short of (Mountain Valley's 2- Bft3d) nameplate capacity during the summer months due to downstream pipeline constraints," analysts at energy consulting firm EBW Analytics said in a note.

When Mountain Valley started construction, lead partner Equitrans, with a roughly 49% interest, estimated the project would cost about $3.5 B and enter service by late 2018.

The 303-mi (488-km) project is owned by units of Equitrans, NextEra Energy, Consolidated Edison, AltaGas and RGC Resources. Equitrans will operate the pipeline.


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