Energy Transfer Partners’ (NYSE:ETP) has had its share of difficulties over the past year. The headliner was the problems it faced in building the Dakota Access Pipeline, which endured several months of setbacks due to protests that caused a delay in getting a key permit. While that project finally entered service last month, the issues with that pipeline haven’t gone away.
Those nagging issues aren’t the only problems facing the company. Just this week, two more of its pipeline construction projects came to a halt. Not only could these new roadblocks delay the in-service date of these key projects, which would have an adverse impact on its cash flow as well as the operations of its customers, but it would further tarnish the company’s already sullied reputation.
The largest project Energy Transfer currently has under construction is the $4.2 billion Rover Pipeline that would move natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale plays of West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio to market centers in the Michigan and Ontario. The company initially expected an in-service date of the first phase in July, with full service anticipated by November.
The company hit a roadblock this spring after 2 million gallons of drilling fluids used in horizontal drilling underneath roads and waterways spilled into wetlands in Ohio. Worse yet, regulators found that the fluids didn’t just contain the clay and water mixture that Energy Transfer disclosed, but also had trace amounts of diesel. Because of that, the company hasn’t been able to complete any new directional drilling on the project, which has delayed the in-service date of the first phase until late summer.
This past week environmental regulators in West Virginia ordered the company to stop work on certain sections of the pipeline after finding that it violated state rules and a water pollution permit. As a result, the company must cease work on these sections in the state until it regains compliance with all the terms and conditions of its permits and local laws.
Another major project for the company is the $2.5 billion Mariner East 2 natural gas liquids (NGL) pipeline, which would move NGLs from the Marcellus and Utica to an export terminal near Philadelphia. This project has also come under intense opposition and scrutiny. Its latest setback came this past week when a judge in Pennsylvania halted construction of the pipeline in a town in the southwestern part of the state due to a dispute over the location of a valve and other equipment, which the town says is in violation of a 2015 agreement.