The Gas Processors Association (GPA) filed additional comments with the Energy Information Administration (EIA) on July 18 in response to proposed changes to data reporting associated with gas processing plants. EIA published its intent to combine two older gas plant data collection forms into one new form, EIA Form 915, in the Federal Register in August 2012. The new form greatly expands the amount of data to be collected over current levels. EIA originally proposed to release the data to the public on a plant-by-plant basis within six months of receiving the information.
GPA appointed a high-level ad hoc task force to develop its initial response to EIA by its May 1, 2014, deadline. This response focused on the confidentiality of contracts between gas plants and producers, the competitive nature of the gas processing industry, and the additional burden on gas plant personnel to collect the additional data. GPA maintained that EIA's proposal to collect and release plant-specific data to the general public poses confidentiality issues that would negatively impact companies operating in the midstream energy sector.
"To be clear, GPA does not oppose the release of appropriately aggregated data by Petroleum Administration for Defense District ("PADD")," as stated in the GPA comments. "However, EIA's plan to rapidly release data after collection that the industry has always treated as confidential is a change from its current practice and will have significant adverse competitive effects. The plant-specific data that EIA is collecting on Form EIA-915 and then plans to release is the type of information that agencies should refrain from releasing. GPA believes this is the type of information that should be exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act."
EIA responded to GPA's initial comments in mid-June and requested additional supporting information from GPA explaining how publicly disclosing the requested information would cause substantial competitive harm to companies supplying the information.
In its most recent filing, GPA provided detailed information on five data elements considered "cornerstone to commercial negotiations in the gas processing sector." GPA's comments said the elements "dictate what a plant can promise to a customer, and in turn, how it might stack up against a competitor seeking the same business. The ability to negotiate these commercial terms in a proprietary forum is essential to quantifying risk and return in any agreement and a free market negotiation."
"Preserving the ongoing confidentiality of such information is critical to maintain a level playing field in the highly competitive midstream sector of the oil and gas business," said GPA President and CEO Mark Sutton. "We remain committed to the cooperative relationship we have enjoyed with the EIA and appreciate their willingness to hear our concerns."
The Gas Processors Association (GPA) has served the U.S. energy industry since 1921 as an incorporated non-profit trade association. GPA is composed of 130 corporate members that are engaged in the gathering and processing of natural gas into merchantable pipeline gas, commonly referred to in the industry as "midstream activities." Such processing includes the removal of impurities from the raw gas stream produced at the wellhead, as well as the extraction for sale of natural gas liquid products (NGLs) such as ethane, propane, butane and natural gasoline. GPA members account for more than 90 percent of the NGLs produced in the United States from natural gas processing.