On May 10, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) halted any new horizontal directional drilling (HDD) work on the Rover Pipeline project.
The order stems from a series of inadvertent HDD drilling fluid returns dating to early April. The largest release, reported April 13, happened while crews were completing a HDD of the Tuscarawas River, in Stark County, Ohio, resulted in approximately 2 million gallons of bentonite-based drilling fluid into a state-designated category three wetland. The spill covered approximately 6.5 acres according to FERC documents.
According to the story, “Drilling Fluids: It’s About the Chemistry,” published in the November 2014 issue of our sister publication Trenchless Technology, “Bentonite is a naturally occurring mineral that is primarily comprised of montmorillonite, a water swellable phyllosilicate. Due to its morphology (platelets) and ability to absorb water, it provides viscosity, suspension and carrying capacity while also reducing penetration of water into porous formations or filtration control.”
The letter to Rover Pipeline from FERC states:
“Commission staff has reviewed information from the Compliance Monitor, drilling logs, geotechnical bore logs of the subsurface geology, and staff’s on-site inspection. According to drilling logs, returns of drilling mud were absent or intermittent during the majority of the completion of: the pilot drill, the 30-inch-diameter ream, and the 42-inch-diameter ream. This encompassed a period of nearly three weeks. During this period of absent (or intermittent) returns to the drilling rig, Rover continued to advance the drilling activities. Based on this information, as well as the volume, extent, and condition of drilling mud in the wetland, staff has serious concerns regarding the magnitude of the incident (which was several orders of magnitude greater than other documented HDD inadvertent returns for this project), its environmental impacts, the lack of clarity regarding the underlying reasons for its occurrence, and the possibility of future problems. Given that the site of the release occurred near, and extended over Rover’s approved centerline, a stoppage of additional drilling is warranted to facilitate a review of Rover’s efforts to search for and locate any potential releases.”
“Therefore, to ensure the protection of all environmental resources during construction of the project and under the delegated authority stipulated in Condition 2 of the Commission’s February 2, 2017 order issued in the above-reference docket, we are prohibiting Rover from drilling activities where HDDs have not commenced, as shown in the attached table, and are requiring Rover to immediately obtain independent third-party contractor proposals to further analyze all drilling activity at the Tuscarawas River HDD.”
The halted crossings are for the Sherwood Lateral – Highway 50, Middle Island Creek – milepost 13.0 and Middle Island Creek – milepost 23.7; Clarington Lateral – Captina Creek; Majorsville Lateral – Ohio River and Market Segment – State Route 52 – Austin Road, Interstate 94 and the Portage River. The letter from FERC also notes that no HDD activity may occur along either the Supply Connector B or Mainline B segments without further staff order.
In response to the spill, Energy Transfer published this statement on the Rover Pipeline website:
“The Rover Pipeline project team would like to provide an update on the inadvertent release of “drilling mud” that occurred as part of our construction activities in Ohio.
The drilling mud, which is a non-toxic, naturally occurring material that is safe for the environment was being used to help facilitate horizontal directional drills in Ohio. Due to the subsurface conditions and other environmental conditions of the locations, the drilling mud was able to migrate through naturally occurring fractures in the soils and reach the surface. It is important to note this is a common and normal component of executing directional drilling operations, there will be no impact to the environment and the release of the drilling mud is being managed and mitigated in accordance with the previously approved and certificated Horizontal Directional Drilling Contingency Plan on file with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA).”
Further commentary an updates about on Rover pipeline construction, visit roverpipelinefacts.com.