COLUMBUS - Natural gas exploration and production has surged in the last few years as energy companies explore and produce within the Utica and Marcellus shale natural gas formations.
Natural gas is transported from the site of production to a refinery, and also to its end destination of consumption, by pipeline.
State authorities such as the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, the Ohio Power Siting Board and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources oversee various aspects of Ohio's natural gas pipeline system to ensure its safe, reliable and environmentally sound operation.
In addition to the State's jurisdiction, the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission have federal authority overseeing various aspects of gas pipeline siting and safety.
As gas pipeline activity has increased across the state, so have the questions regarding jurisdiction over this new infrastructure.
Here are some of the more frequently asked questions posed to the PUCO and OPSB along with an organizational chart outlining the different siting and safety jurisdictions based on the type of pipeline project.
Who regulates the pipeline siting?
The OPSB certifies intrastate gas pipelines within the state of Ohio that are greater than 500 feet in length and 9 inches in diameter and designed with a maximum allowable operating pressure of greater than 125 psi.
Production lines are under the jurisdiction of the ODNR. Gathering lines and liquid lines fall under local zoning jurisdiction. Interstate lines fall under the jurisdiction of the FERC.
What's a gathering pipeline?
A gathering line is any pipeline upstream from a processing facility, any line carrying gas from a processing facility to a fractionation plant and any line carrying natural gas from a processing plant to an interstate or intrastate pipeline.
What is a liquids pipeline?
For these purposes, liquids are defined as an individual finished product produced by a natural gas liquids fractionation plant and generally include ethane, propane, butanes and natural gasoline pipelines.
Who regulates the plants?
Compressor stations may fall under the jurisdiction of certified local building departments, where applicable. Whereas processing facilities and liquid fractionation plants fall under the jurisdiction of local zoning authorities.
Does the ODNR have a role?
The ODNR has jurisdiction over production operation facilities on the well head site, which includes the siting of production pipelines.
Is there any further oversight?
The PUCO regulates the safety aspects of most gas pipelines, including gathering lines, located within the state of Ohio. Pipeline operators must notify the PUCO before constructing new gas pipelines and again before placing these lines into service. The PUCO Pipeline Safety Section monitors the construction of these lines and conducts routine inspections and audits once the lines are placed in service. The only exceptions to PUCO safety jurisdiction are production lines, which are regulated by ODNR, and liquids and interstate lines, which are regulated by the PHMSA.
Where can I find more information?
Ohio Senate Bill 315, passed on June 11, 2012, established a new regulatory framework for overseeing Ohio's oil and gas industry.
Information on the Utica Shale play and the ODNR Oil & Gas Division may be found at: www.ohiodnr.com.
Information about the PUCO and its role in pipeline safety may be found by contacting the PUCO at (800) 686-PUCO (7826) or www.PUCO.ohio.gov.