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Pipe on the way for Utica operations

December 2, 2012
Morning Journal News

Weeks ago, Harry Schurr, Consol Energy's general manager of Utica operations, said he needed pipe in the ground but it was still early in the drilling game.

However, pipe is just over the horizon and inching closer and closer as the V&M Star pipe mill in Youngstown increases production.

The mill just produced its first piece of seamless pipe in October. So the pipe that will be sold to support the oil and gas drilling industry for years is on the way.

The French-owned V&M Star, now over a $1 billion investment, will sell various lengths, diameters and grades of steel for different applications with just about all of it going into the ground.

There have been questions have been raised about keeping track of the pipe going into the ground to build "gathering" and new "transmission" lines.

That's a potential problem if no one is keeping track and years down the road, when the last well is exhausted, who will be keeping an eye on the miles of aging, corroding steel just a few feet underground?

Starting at the local level, Assistant Columbiana County Engineer Bob Durbin said that legally the only involvement the engineers' office has with the pipelines is "if it crosses a right-of-way on a county road."

He said there are about 20 to 25 pipelines that cross roads and "they are well marked and you can see the crossings ... and they are maintained and mowed."

At the state level there is the Ohio Department of Natural Resources which permits drill sites to begin with, but the ODNR says it keeps "no records of pipeline installation" and another big state overseer, the Ohio Public Utilities Commission (PUCO), says it only regulates pipelines involved in the operation of the well, according to its website.

That is, for example, pipelines used to transport oil to the storage tank or gas to a point of delivery for the purpose of sale.

The ODNR also has a 17-page manual from its Division of Soil and Water Conservation regarding construction specifications and standards that zeros in on lines, pumps, valves that basically convey "liquids, gases and finely divided solids."

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) regulates the safety aspects of most gas pipelines located and the PUCO pipeline safety section monitors the construction of lines and conducts routine inspections and audits once the lines are placed in service.

Jason Gilham, spokesperson for the PUCO, said the permitting process and property rights are also good places to check for line ownership and where they go, but he said there's no one-stop checkpoint.

"I don't think there's a master list, it's a matter of working through the processes."

Another way is to check is to look at the property rights for the land through county records.

He said the companies first mark the pipeline pathways after checking for easements and buried utilities before digging.

Another agency, the Ohio Power Siting Board certifies all gas pipelines longer than 500 feet in length and nine-inches in diameter.

The maximum allowable operating pressure can be no greater than 125 psi but the OPSB does not have jurisdiction over gathering lines or liquid lines.

An 11-member board has seven voting members including the heads of the ODNR, PUCO, the Department of Agriculture, state EPA, the Development Services Agency, Department of Health and a public member, an engineer appointed by the governor.

What all this means is that by the time a line is in the ground, it's been pretty well documented.

For more information about the PUCO and its role in pipeline safety, visit

For more information on the Utica Shale play and the ODNR Oil & Gas Division may be found at:



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