Blog March 02, 2018

As part of Genscape’s proprietary monitoring efforts, the Infrastructure Intelligence team sent a reconnaissance plane aloft over the route of Williams’ Atlantic Sunrise project in Pennsylvania on February 15, 2018. The 1.7 Bcf/d project came partially online last September, adding 400 MMcf/d of new capacity south through Transco’s Station 195, but the 183-mile greenfield Central Penn Line did not begin serious construction until mid-September 2017. Williams said at the time that pipeline construction was expected to take approximately 10 months, putting them right on schedule for a start date in July 2018. The new Compressor Stations (605 & 610) are expected to take a little bit longer to come online due to the complexity of the builds, potentially taking into Q3 or even Q4 2018 before commissioning is complete.

Based on Genscape’s observations, Atlantic Sunrise has made great progress over the winter despite snowy and freezing conditions. During the severe cold snap in January, Atlantic Sunrise requested and received permission from FERC to idle machinery and generators overnight to prevent engines from seizing due to temperatures below 25 degrees Fahrenheit. The pipeline also received permission for overnight and Sunday work to help with concrete foundation work at several sites.

Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline

Pipeline construction seemed to be progressing linearly in the northern reaches of Central Penn (north of Station 605), with cleared and ready Right of Way (ROW), welded pipeline sitting next to open trenches (waiting to be lowered in) or finished ROW with indications of buried pipe. No significant stretches of strung-but-not-yet-welded pipe or stretches of welded pipe were observed until closer to the brownfield section of pipe south of Station 605, where miles of pipe have been delivered and strung along a cleared and prepped ROW.

In the southern, brownfield part of northern Central Penn, where the pipeline runs along the existing Transco Leidy Line A, there were long stretches of snowy ROW that did not show disturbance for the installation of the new pipeline. Well-marked muddy pathways where vehicles travel regularly were present, with drainage and erosion prevention measures visible. As the ROW is already clear of vegetation, level and easily accessible via existing roads, construction here should go quickly once it begins.

Further west along the Leidy Line, new turbine installation at the existing and currently operating Compressor Station 520 was well underway. Major parts of the turbine have already been installed onto the foundations, including all the large pipework needed outdoors, and the steel skeleton of the protective building has been prepared for siding installation. Genscape expects that this building will be complete and the compressor addition nearly finished in the next few weeks. However, completion of the electrical and fine piping hookups inside, as well as the testing process, will take quite a while (up to a few months). It is unlikely that this additional horsepower will be online anytime soon.

South of the Leidy Line, the northernmost section of Central Penn Line South was fairly advanced, with long stretches of welded pipeline already lowered into the trench waiting for final checks before burial. This stage transitioned quickly to long stretches of welded pipe sitting on the ROW, waiting for trenching to catch up. The lack of preemptive trenching makes sense during winter and spring construction, as icy or wet soil is unstable and could compromise the edges of the ditch, causing unsafe conditions for machinery and workers. Genscape saw similar construction processes last year when routinely flying Energy Transfer’s Rover project in Ohio.

As Genscape’s plane flew further south, crossing over the just-beginning work at the new Compressor Station 610, the progression of construction decreased, with the long stretches of welded pipe giving way to strung pipe segments sitting on the side of the ROW. This quickly gave way to sections where the ROW had been cleared of trees, but was otherwise waiting for attention. That said, construction along this section encounters the steepest and most rugged terrain, and is thus much less sequential in nature than other sections of the pipe, and will be the last to finish. Here, Genscape observed nearly unmarked ROW within miles of where welded pipe actively being lowered into a trench and covered with soil. In addition, there were several sections along this route where the status of the pipe was unclear – either the ROW was recently prepared for pipe segments to be delivered and strung, or the process has been already completed and there’s a 42” pipeline hidden under freshly disturbed dirt.

The southernmost stretches of Central Penn Line South indicated advanced stages of construction with welded pipeline visible lowered into an open trench, especially on approach to the River Road Interconnect with the Transco Mainline. The interconnect itself was nothing more than concrete pilings, but meter installation is generally a fairly fast process, and was further along than anticipated – helped by FERC granting overnight work permissions during winter temperatures, and thus allowing concrete foundations to be poured in January.

Overall, this pipeline project seems to be progressing very well, especially considering the difficulty of construction in remote areas during a cold winter in Pennsylvania. As the weather conditions improve, trenching will be able to progress quickly, allowing the miles of welded pipe to be lowered in, inspected and covered. Genscape expects rapid progress to be made in March and April in areas where the pipe is already present on the ROW.

As far as in-service expectations go, indications for a July date are positive. Based on the disparity of construction progress north and south of the Leidy area, Genscape’s Infrastructure Intelligence team has marked down a potential second partial service for Atlantic Sunrise, as the northern section of the pipe (Central Penn Line North) is quite advanced and will likely be completed prior to the full completion of the southern section (Central Penn Line South). However, there are at least a few months left before such a partial service would be ready to flow.

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