The talk in the shale biz this week is all about them pipes.
Hart Energy’s Marcellus-Utica Midstream Conference started Tuesday night at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, attracting most of the big names in gas pipeline and infrastructure development.
Builders say they’re insulated (so far) from the low natural gas prices that have some producers slashing budgets and jobs, and are moving fill-speed ahead. But a slow build-out of pipelines from the Appalachian basin has fueled the glut that’s helping to drive down prices.
A plodding and Byzantine regulatory and permitting process slows work, the industry says. That leaves overstocked producers in the Marcellus and needy consumers from Boston to Charlotte waiting.
Another group tapping their toes is a manufacturing sector eager to take advantage of what shale offers.
The American Shale & Manufacturing Partnership today released a report two years in the making that highlights challenges facing the industry and includes suggestions for moving forward. Based on brainstorming session that began in 2013 in Pittsburgh, many of the recommendations surround infrastructure, regulatory issues and permitting.
“Too often, regulatory barriers and insufficient agency personnel and resources inhibit forward motion. Industry may identify an implementation approach and plan the needed infrastructure only to return to the drawing board when government agencies express disagreement,” the report states.
Suggestions for overcoming such challenges include forming a task force or interstate board to smooth permitting and regulatory issues.
“We must commit to pursuing common sense policies that encourage capital investment into the region while identifying more practical ways to utilize these abundant resource,” said David Spigelmyer, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition.
The report suggests speeding up some permitting processes, an idea that would likely garner some happy dances over at the Convention Center, where attendees heard about legislation aimed that way.
The report also calls for building better relationships in the community to “resolve concerns.” The infrastructure build-out hasn’t always been embraced with open arms in towns through which new pipes must run.
One suggestion in the report for companies to deal with this: Don’t rely on tap-dancing from the in-house PR staff.
“Influential and trusted partners can play key roles in enabling public understanding. Community leaders, regulators, the media, community advisory panels, chambers of commerce, faith-based organizations, and universities and extension services can serve as trusted resources,” the report says. “These messengers can help to overcome the stigma which can be associated with industry-led communication campaigns.”