Mountain Valley Pipeline final cost revised up to $7.85 billion

The Mountain Valley Pipeline’s developer said it anticipates the natural gas project will have a final price tag of around $7.85 billion

By Matt Busse |Cardinal News| The Mountain Valley Pipeline’s lead developer said Tuesday it anticipates the natural gas project will have a final price tag of approximately $7.85 billion.

That figure is around $220 million more than the upper end of the range of $7.57 billion to $7.63 billion that the company announced in February.

Equitrans Midstream, the lead developer of the pipeline joint venture, said factors contributing to the new cost estimate include a slower-than-expected pace of construction recently, which has resulted in additional labor and equipment costs, and expenses related to restoring land after construction.

The route of the Mountain Valley Pipeline runs for 303 miles through Virginia and West Virginia. Courtesy of Mountain Valley Pipeline.

“Project costs were affected by challenging physical construction conditions, certain equipment and other issues during now-completed boring operations, unexpected challenges with certain pipeline cleaning procedures, and inclement weather,” the company said in a news release Tuesday in which it reported a first-quarter profit of $111.9 million.

Diana Charletta, president and CEO of Equitrans Midstream, said in the release that with all water and wetland crossings complete and the pipeline almost all installed, the company is “nearing completion of MVP’s forward construction activities” and that it hopes to have the pipeline in service by the end of May.

“We are pleased to be so close to completing this critical infrastructure project,” Charletta said.

The company said that less than one mile of the 303-mile, 42-inch-diameter natural gas pipeline from West Virginia into southern Virginia remains to be installed. A Mountain Valley Pipeline spokesperson declined to specify where that last mile is, citing security concerns.

Most of the pipeline has been tested, cleaned out and prepared for operation. Two of three compressor stations — which are positioned along the pipeline’s route to periodically increase the pressure of the gas inside the pipe, keeping it moving forward — have been commissioned, Equitrans said.

The company said it has completed “restoration of a substantial portion of the pipeline right-of-way, with the majority of remaining pipeline restoration to occur following MVP in-service.”

The pipeline joint venture — which consists of Equitrans and four other companies, including Roanoke Gas’ parent company, RGC Resources — has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for authorization to put the pipeline in service once it’s complete. The commission regulates the construction of interstate natural gas pipelines.

The Mountain Valley Pipeline is expected to transport up to 2 billion cubic feet of natural gas daily from West Virginia through six Virginia counties, ending at a Transco compressor station in Pittsylvania County.

Supporters say the pipeline will help move natural gas from Marcellus and Utica shale deposits to mid- and south-Atlantic U.S. markets, meeting energy demand. Mountain Valley Pipeline’s opponents say the project is unnecessary, dangerous and harmful to the environment.

“We’ve known from the start that MVP is an impossible project and its ballooning price tag reflects that,” Denali Nalamalapu, co-director of the Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights (POWHR) coalition, said via email Tuesday. “It is devastating to see nearly $8 billion poured into a needless methane gas pipeline that is destroying our mountains and endangering us when that money could be going towards meaningfully addressing the climate crisis.”

Legal and permitting battles have delayed the project for years and contributed to its cost, more than doubling since it was first announced in 2014 with an anticipated completion date of 2018 at a price of $3.5 billion.

The pipeline received a significant boost this past summer when Congress passed a law fast-tracking its remaining necessary government permits and shielding it from most legal challenges. Nonetheless, six Southwest Virginia landowners are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to consider their case challenging the use of eminent domain to seize their land for the pipeline.

A $370 million extension, MVP Southgate, is planned to run 31 miles from Pittsylvania County to Rockingham County, North Carolina, and to transport 550 million cubic feet of gas per day after its projected June 2028 completion.

Opponents have challenged FERC’s approval of the Southgate project, saying that recently announced plans to shorten the route from 75 miles and forgo a previously announced new compressor station in Pittsylvania County make the project so different from what the commission approved that it requires another look.

Equitrans Midstream announced in March that it plans to merge with its former owner, Pittsburgh-based EQT, in an all-stock transaction.

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