The Mountain Valley Pipeline Southgate project will be shortened to 31 miles from 75 miles, according to a notice the company overseeing construction sent to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Dec. 29.

Analysts noted that the change would potentially cause fewer legal clashes for the controversial project. Midstream company Equitrans is building the line and is the majority owner.

“The MVP Southgate extension project suffered familiar opposition and permitting delays,” Tom Sharp, director of permitting intelligence at Arbo, an energy infrastructure data and intelligence company, told Hart Energy. “Its revised footprint seems to minimize environmental impact by reducing water crossings and eliminating the need to add a new compressor station, which will result in fewer permits needed—thereby potentially less litigation and higher probability of success.”

The MVP Southgate Extension will connect to the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which is being constructed from northern West Virginia to south central Virginia. The MVP is slated for completion in first-quarter 2024.

Original plans for the Southgate extension called for a 75-mile line from the terminus of the MVP in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, to distribution points in Rockingham and Alamance counties in North Carolina.

MVP Southage extension
The original 75-mile MVP Southgate pipeline, which Equitrans will not scale back after regulatory delays and opposition from environmental groups. (Source: MVP Southgate)

According to the letter sent to the FERC on Dec. 29, MVP entered into precedent agreements with utility company Public Service Co. of North Carolina (PSNC) and others that “contemplated a redesigned project.” The new plans terminate the 30-inch diameter line in Rockingham rather than continuing further south to Alamance County.

The MVP corporation expects the redesigned Southgate extension to cost about $370 million, with anticipated completion in June 2028. The company will finalize the scope and timeframe for the projects after it conducts an open season for the line’s service.

The new layout reflects an effort to avoid some of the more controversial and difficult parts of pipeline construction that have plagued the far larger MVP project, said Alex Gafford, senior energy analyst at East Daley Analytics.

“The original plan for the Southgate extension was denied an air quality certification permit for a necessary compressor station in [December] 2021. Without the permit and compressor station the project as it stood was not possible, extending 75 miles with deliveries into both Rockingham and Alamance Counties,” Gafford wrote to Hart Energy via email. “The tradeoff is the pipeline will now only make deliveries into Rockingham County and not extend to Alamance. PSNC backed the original project and also backs this revised plan, alongside another shipper, totaling 550 dekatherms per day.

MVP LLC told Hart Energy that the company will complete the project.

“Mountain Valley remains committed to the MVP Southgate project and helping meet public demand for affordable, reliable natural gas,” said Shawn Day, spokesperson for MVP Southgate. “At the appropriate time, the MVP Southgate team intends to pursue all necessary permits and authorizations to complete construction of this important energy infrastructure project.”

The extension project received some attention from the public as recently as two weeks ago. On Dec. 19, the FERC granted the MVP corporation a three-year extension to complete the line after the company cited delays associated with the completion of the main MVP line.

Environmental groups in the region, which opposed the MVP and its associated projects, said in a press release that they would continue to oppose the line, regardless of the revisions.

“We know these changes resulted from sustained opposition to this unnecessary methane gas pipeline and its Southgate extension, and our opposition continues,” Jessica Sims, Appalachian Voices Virginia field coordinator, said in a press release.