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Rover Pipeline: Tracking Steel and Natural Gas from Greece to Ohio

Genscape Imagery of the Rover Natural Gas Pipeline

On September 1, 2017, the first tentative natural gas deliveries flowed on Phase 1 of the Energy Transfer Rover Pipeline, a brand new 3.2 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) pipeline that stretches from East to West across the state of Ohio. Rover is perhaps the most closely-watched energy infrastructure project coming online in the United States this year, and promises to be a major outlet for natural gas from the rapidly growing Marcellus and Utica Shale production areas in Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania. Using a combination of proprietary monitoring sensors, timely satellite imagery, and research detective work, Genscape has pieced together and tracked every step of the Rover Pipeline Project. These steps include the project’s initial conception and announcement in 2014, its progression through Federal and State regulatory milestones, the production of steel pipeline segments in Greece in 2015, shipments and imports of pipe segments across the Atlantic Ocean to the Port of Cleveland, and the ultimate installation of the pipeline and first flow of natural gas across the rural Ohio countryside in 2017.

For illustrative purposes, and to see how the wealth of Genscape’s unique proprietary data streams and signal intelligence methods fit together like puzzle pieces to tell a single story, this blog will take a look back at Rover’s whole supply chain journey, from the perspective of a single steel segment of pipe.

The journey starts in the Pipe Works of Corinth, Greece, the source of all of the 95,000 tons of steel pipe that went into the project. On June 22, 2015, Genscape Vesseltracker traced the voyage of the Bulk Carrier Cargo Ship, “Bluebill,” starting at the Port of Thisvi in Greece, where it picked up a shipment of Rover pipe segments. The ship then traversed the Atlantic, and a month later, on July 17, delivered pipe segments to the Port of Cleveland in Ohio, USA. The Bluebill is only one of the dozens of bulk carriers that made the same trans-Atlantic journey from Greece to Cleveland in 2015.

Genscape Vesseltracker Segment Origins

The pipe segments from the vessel Bluebill were temporarily stacked in piles in the Port of Cleveland, adjacent to the aptly named FirstEnergy Stadium, home of the NFL’s Cleveland Browns. The appearance of green-coated pipe segments unloaded from the ship is visible in a timely mid-resolution satellite image from Planet on July 20, 2015. Additionally, high-resolution satellite imagery from DigitalGlobe taken on August 5, 2015, just a few days later, shows the pipe segments from the ship being loaded onto trucks to be hauled from the port to the middle of Ohio. Frequent and timely mid-resolution satellite imagery from Planet is a primary tool used by Genscape to detect weekly changes over time across the entire length of the area of interest of a pipeline project, while tactical high-resolution imagery from DigitalGlobe is used to view more detailed activities at key locations along the project for finer detail intelligence gathering.

Cleveland Satellite Imagery

The next stop for the Rover steel pipeline segments was a massive staging yard in Massillon, Ohio. Genscape closely monitored changes at the Massillon central storage yard over time using Planet satellite imagery, as pipe segments were trucked in and stockpiled throughout 2015, stored under tarps during all of 2016, and finally trucked out and strung along the cleared pipeline right of way in the Spring and Summer of 2017. The animated time-lapse video below compiled from Planet satellite imagery shows the progression as the pipe segments are stockpiled and trucked away. Estimating the quantity of pipe remaining in the staging yard serves as a quantitative check on construction progress that is independently compared with guidance from Energy Transfer construction reports.

Genscape’s Natural Gas Infrastructure Intelligence service has conducted seven aerial reconnaissance flights along the entire length of the Rover Pipeline in order to obtain the most up-to-date information on the construction progress, and to provide clients with granular data and analysis not found elsewhere. The analysts behind the Infrastructure Intelligence team further mined regulatory and legal filings in order to accurately forecast in-service dates and to identify construction risks before they came to pass. Genscape's aerial images below dated from May to August 2017, show steel pipe segments that arrived from the Massillon Staging Yard being strung along the pipeline right of way, welded, and lowered into the trench. The steel pipeline segments have now completed their journey across the world and are currently being placed into service as an integral part of the U.S. Interstate pipeline system.

On August 31, 2017, initial flows were detected on Phase 1 of the Rover Pipeline by Genscape’s Natural Gas Real Time (RT) pipeline intelligence service, with material flows beginning the next day on September 1. Natural gas flows on Rover have the potential to ramp up from the initial flows of 500 million cubic feet per day (MMcf/d) to the nameplate capacity of 3.2 Bcf/d as the compressor stations and additional phases of the pipeline come online over the next year.

Rover Pipeline Receipts and Deliveries

Genscape has the deep domain knowledge and analytical infrastructure necessary to collect, combine, and contextualize disparate sources of data ranging from AIS Maritime radio messages, to signals distilled from visual satellite images, to infrastructure intelligence extracted from regulatory filings and geotagged high-resolution aerial imagery, to scraping and analyzing thousands of daily natural gas pipeline delivery and receipt nominations. Genscape is at the forefront of the alternative data revolution that is making energy and commodities supply chains more transparent and understandable than ever before. To learn more, or to request a trial of Genscape’s Infrastructure Intelligence Service, please click here.

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