Pipeline route development becomes more complicated as various oil and natural gas operators tap into the rich Niobrara Shale. A team of experts work to find the delicate balance between delivering a key domestic energy source and protecting the environment and the quality of life in the Niobrara.
After an analysis of the available routes is completed, the options are closely scrutinized and a preferred route is identified. Issues regarding constructability, public impact, existing infrastructure and the strategic collection of natural oil or gas are examined in great detail, as well as environmental sensitivity issues, such as wetlands, streams and historic sites.
Field surveys provide much of the data the route development team relies upon to reach a decision when selecting a preferred location. During the survey, the surface and subsurface features of a tract of land are studied, providing important information on optimal areas to lay pipe. Prior to conducting a survey, the pipeline company may request a signed survey permission agreement with the landowner.
While Chesapeake strives to streamline the process and share pipelines with other companies whenever possible, there are usually certain circumstances which prevent this, such as:
Contractual obligations - Gathering pipelines provide a transportation service to producers of oil and natural gas through contractual agreements. These contracts may include dedications of pipeline capacity or other performance obligations that limit the availability of pipeline capacity for other parties.
Location - If one company has a concentration of leases in a particular area, a competing company would most likely not have any wellsites nearby, lessening any possibility of sharing a pipeline.
Timing - Delaying a pipeline to include multiple producers or waiting to use a pipeline that is already functioning at capacity could prevent producers from maximizing their output and impair the ability to move oil and gas to market. Such considerations are frequently included in determining the contractual obligations of pipeline operators.