Ohio officials worry about possible new spills from Rover natgas pipe

(Reuters) - Ohio environmental regulators on Friday told federal energy regulators the state has significant concerns about the potential for a spill from Energy Transfer Partners’ drilling as the company works on the Rover natural gas pipeline.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency said in a filing with the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that it learned this week that 148,000 gallons of drilling fluid were “lost down the hole” that ETP is drilling under the Tuscarawas River in Stark County, Ohio.

That is the same site as a spill last April of 2 million gallons of mostly clay and water used to lubricate drilling blades, which led FERC to temporarily ban ETP from new horizontal drilling.

The state has “significant concerns for the potential of similar releases as occurred at this location in April,” it said in the filing. “We are deeply concerned this second drill under the Tuscarawas River is heading towards a similar outcome which resulted in the previous release to the environment.”

The state EPA said in its filing the company has not discovered any new spills in the area.

“We continue to work in coordination with FERC ... and are following the (horizontal drilling) plan that has been approved by FERC and the Ohio EPA,” Alexis Daniel, a spokeswoman for ETP, said in an email.

Ohio, which asked FERC to ban all of ETP’s horizontal directional drilling in November, said in its filing on Friday it wants more information on the Tuscarawas drilling.

FERC in December allowed ETP to complete all horizontal drills on the Rover project, including those in Ohio.

Pipeline companies use horizontal directional drilling to cross under large obstacles like highways and rivers.

Once finished, the $4.2 billion Rover pipeline will carry up to 3.25 billion cubic feet of gas per day from the Marcellus and Utica shale fields in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia to the U.S. Midwest and Ontario in Canada.

One billion cubic feet per day of gas can supply about five million U.S. homes.

ETP said Friday it expects to finish Rover by the end of the first quarter.

About 0.9 bcfd of gas was already flowing on completed portions of the pipeline, according to Reuters data.

Major gas producers that have signed up to use Rover include units of privately held Ascent Resources LLC, Antero Resources Corp, Range Resources Corp, Southwestern Energy Co, Eclipse Resources Corp and EQT Corp.

Reporting by Scott DiSavino in New York; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and David Gregorio