WARREN - Plans for a major pipeline to link emerging shale gas fields in eastern Ohio to energy companies and customers all the way to Canada could be coming just in time, officials related to the natural gas industry said last week.
''I need pipelines,'' said Harry W. Schurr, general manager of Utica operations for CONSOL Energy / CNX Gas. He spoke matter-of-factly when asked at last week's Youngstown Ohio Utica & Natural Gas conference and Expo (Y.O.U.N.G.) what specific infrastructure he would need to be successful locally.
''If I put a well in the ground, but I can't transport (the natural gas), it's not much good,'' he said.
Schurr listed pipelines first, even before water resources, roadways and rail access to the gas wells expected to be launching soon in the Mahoning Valley.
Consol Energy is the leading fuel producer in the U.S., producing both coal and natural gas.
Schurr's statement came a day after it was announced that Houston-based Spectra Energy, Enbridge Inc. of Canada and Detroit-based DTE Energy were working together on plans to build a 250-mile pipeline from northeast Ohio to an existing line in Michigan. That would eventually link natural gas generated in the Utica Shale to areas in Canada.
It will include interconnects with Michigan Consolidated Gas Co., Consumers Energy and, through the Vector Pipeline, the Enbridge Tecumseh Gas Storage facility and Union Gas' Dawn Hub, both in Ontario.
The partners said they already have received interest for a significant level of firm capacity to anchor the project. An "open season" for the project is planned for the fourth quarter 2012, when users can commit their plans for usage.
The Nexus Gas Transmission System, which will cost $1.3 billion to $1.5 billion, could be in service by November 2015. Plans are preliminary, and it still remains unclear whether the line would pass through parts of the Mahoning Valley, sources said.
Construction of the line, however, could mean significant economic benefits to Ohio through job creation and ongoing tax revenue. The project would have to be approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which would also approve the customer rates.
Local businessmen Dan Crouse and Charles Joseph of Routh-Hurlbert Business Real Estate Brokers months ago realized the need for new pipelines, and already have developed a potential route and started representing landowners.
Crouse said he also has been in contact with Spectra Energy officials about their plans.
''The interesting part is no one in this area understands how much pipeline construction has to happen,'' Crouse said Thursday. He and Joseph were manning their company's exhibit at the Covelli Centre's Y.O.U.N.G. conference.
''Think about the concept. If you don't want pipeline construction, first, your gas isn't going to market, and two, you have to move it with trucks,'' Crouse said. ''Pipelines are paid for by pipeline companies. Highways are paid for by your tax dollars.''