(Bloomberg) -- Equitrans Midstream Corp. is in the early stages of exploring a potential sale, people familiar with the matter said, potentially adding to a flurry of pipeline deals in North America. 

The operator of natural gas pipelines across the country, including the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline project, is working with an adviser as it weighs a range of strategic options, according to the people. Equitrans would likely attract interest from industry peers should it opt to launch a sales process in early 2024, the people said. 

Equitrans shares rose as much as 10.7% on Friday. The stock was up 10.5% at 12:41 p.m. in New York, giving the Canonsburg, Pennsylvania-based company a market value of roughly $4.5 billion.

Deliberations are ongoing and there’s no certainty Equitrans will decide to proceed with a sale, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing confidential information. A representative for Equitrans declined to comment.

The company expects to complete its Mountain Valley Pipeline, a 300-mile natural gas line stretching from West Virginia to southern Virginia, in the first quarter of 2024. The $7.2 billion project is years behind its original schedule as it faced legal battles and local opposition. West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin has long advocated for the pipeline, arguing it is needed to increase domestic energy production and lower energy costs.

With the pipeline nearing completion, exploring a potential sale makes sense, Citi analyst Spiro Dounis said in a note. Other companies with Northeast assets include Williams Cos., DT Midstream Inc., Energy Transfer LP and Kinder Morgan Inc., he said.

Read More: Fear and Anger Follow Path of Manchin’s Mountain Valley Pipeline

Should a deal go ahead, it would add to a string of pipeline transactions announced in North America that have included ONEOK Inc.’s roughly $19 billion purchase of Magellan Midstream Partners and Energy Transfer’s $7.1 billion acquisition of Crestwood Equity Partners.

Equitrans is the former midstream pipeline business of US gas producer EQT Corp. It was spun out of EQT in 2018 following a campaign by the activist investment firm Jana Partners.

Led by Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Thomas Karam, Equitrans owns and operates 940 miles of interstate pipelines, according to its website. 

--With assistance from Elizabeth Elkin.

(Adds analyst comment in sixth paragraph. Updates shares.)

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