Natural gas opposition has shifted to transportation, speakers say

Opposition to natural gas projects has moved from exploration and production to transportation, speakers said during a discussion on Capitol Hill of US gas infrastructure needs. “Pipeline opposition has become a stand-in for opposition to fossil fuels for some groups,” said Kim Watson, Kinder Morgan Inc.’s (KMI) eastern pipeline group president.

“Attacking hydraulic fracturing hasn’t worked, so opponents have focused on attacking pipelines,” Watson told attendees at a June 24 forum sponsored by the US House Natural Gas Caucus. “They’re using the same scare stories and misinformation they tried upstream.”

George Stark, external affairs director for Cabot Oil & Gas Corp.’s eastern US operations, said, “The resource is stranded. We have the supplies ready to be produced in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. They won’t be affected by Gulf Coast hurricanes. All we lack is the capacity to get it to customers.”

Cabot has fewer rigs drilling wells on its Appalachian leases in 2015 than it did in 2013 and 2014, Stark told OGJ following the event. That would change with approval of two pending pipeline projects with capacity to transport 500 MMcfd each, he said.

Gas prices climb when there’s not enough pipeline capacity, Watson said. “New England has paid more than $7 billion in the last 2 years than what it would have with access to supplies in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio,” she said. “Yet opponents have been saying that pipelines shouldn’t be built because consumers would be paying too much.”

Referring to TransCanada Corp.’s proposed Keystone XL crude oil pipeline, David Mallino, legislative director for the Laborers’ International Union of North America, said, “We’re seeing Keystone-like fights on every gas pipeline that’s being proposed. We know the goal of some folks is to strand the resource. If it can’t get to market, it will stay in the ground.”

Natural gas for decades

Citing figures from the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, Watson said the US already has more than 220,000 miles of interstate gas pipelines with 122.05 bcfd of capacity. “Even with the most aggressive expansion of renewables possible, we’ll need natural gas for decades,” she said.

Watson noted that KMI expects the current 77 bcfd of US demand will reach 110 bcfd by 2025. Most of that—about 10 bcfd—could be for LNG exports, while another 6-8 bcfd will be to generate electricity, Watson said. “Shale gas has created industrial plant growth demand along the Gulf Coast which could reach 3.5-4.7 bcfd by 2025,” she said.

Watson said that by 2035, KMI expects another $641 billion of transportation systems will be required: $313 billion for gas, $272 billion for crude, and the remainder for natural gas liquids. Modern pipeline development is more complicated and takes longer than in the past, she noted.

Stark, who also appeared on America’s Natural Gas Alliance’s behalf, confirmed this as he used the proposed $650 million Constitution Pipeline from Marcellus shale fields in Pennsylvania to Schenectady, NY, as an example. Cabot and Williams Cos. Inc. announced a joint venture for the 124-mile, 30-in. project in February 2012 (WGL Holdings and Piedmont Natural Gas Co. subsequently became participants) and began its prefiling process with the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in April.

Ground surveys began that June, and Constitution began its public open houses, FERC scoping meetings, and easement negotiations that fall before submitting its 7(c) application to FERC, Stark said. FERC issued a final environmental impact statement for the project in October 2014 and followed that with a project certification order in December. Construction began in May, with service scheduled to begin during second-half 2016.

Watson said KMI’s Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. subsidiary is in FERC’s prefiling process for its proposed Northeast Energy Direct, which will upgrade infrastructure in Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Connecticut to help meet increased gas demand. It already has strong commercial customer support, she said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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