Natural Gas Utilities: Building and Enhancing an Advanced Energy Delivery System

Washington, D.C. – Advances in American technology for natural gas production have unlocked an abundance of this domestic clean energy source which has contributed to huge savings for residential and commercial customers. America’s natural gas utilities are using this opportunity to continue to improve our nation’s natural gas infrastructure, and they are working with local regulators to develop innovative models for making these capital investments possible.

“Natural gas is a key to our energy future and America’s natural gas utilities are upgrading our delivery system to meet this growing demand,” said Dave McCurdy, President and CEO of the American Gas Association. “There is a tremendous opportunity for consumers and our nation as a whole through greater use of natural gas and we see a future where natural gas is the foundation fuel that heats our homes, runs our vehicles, generates power and supports other forms of renewable energy. We are building and continually improving our infrastructure to deliver on this promise.”

Maintaining the safety and reliability of the nation’s natural gas pipeline system is the number one priority for AGA and its member utilities. Utilities invest billions of dollars annually in maintenance, safety upgrades and operating expenses.

The American Gas Association has released a new “Natural Gas Rate Round-up,” a periodic update on innovative rate designs. The report highlights several states that are on the cutting edge of innovative rate designs, working with their natural gas utilities to build and maintain an advanced energy delivery system while continuing to deliver natural gas at affordable prices.

Georgia was an early adopter of infrastructure cost tracking mechanisms, replacing 2,300 miles of natural gas pipelines over a span of 15 years. The state worked with a local natural gas utility on an innovative rate design to upgrade the backbone of the distribution system and liquefied natural gas facilities to improve system reliability and create a platform for economic growth in the state.  Further program expansions allowed an extension of pipeline facilities to serve customers without access to natural gas and to create new development corridors to help spur economic growth.

Ohio is enabling upgrades of their natural gas pipelines while keeping an eye on the bills their citizens receive. There is a large volume of pipeline replacement taking place in the state, but, under the current plan, the rates customers see are only allowed to increase by $1 per month for five years. At the end of the five year period, rates will stabilize at approximately $60 more per year than when the replacements began. The gradual increase enables Ohio utilities to modernize their infrastructure and prevent rate shock for customers.

Natural gas pipelines in Utah are relatively new, but they are getting an early start on replacements and upgrades. These upgrades provide customers with higher pressure service which allows the use of more energy efficient applications.  Replacing main lines also allows addition of safety measures, such as lines that can be monitored through the use of robotics, automatic shut-off valves and excess flow valves.

You can read more about these programs and what other states are doing to modernize their natural gas infrastructure here.

Northwest Gas & Power Groups Commend Planned FERC Workshops but Stress Regional Differences

PORTLAND, OR – The Northwest Gas Association (NWGA) and the Pacific Northwest Utilities Conference Committee (PNUCC) compliment the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for its decision to hold regional workshops on coordination as reliance on natural gas for power generation increases across the country.

In joint comments on FERC Docket AD12-12 submitted by the NWGA, PNUCC and the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), the organizations called for FERC to consider regional differences in energy infrastructure and resource mix as it contemplates its role in facilitating greater coordination.

“The Northwest power system and its mix of resources are unique from other regions of the country,” said Dick Adams, Executive Director of PNUCC.  “That’s why we said any federal policies promulgated in this matter should accommodate regional differences.  We are pleased FERC will look at these issues in that regional context,” Adams continued.

For instance, the Pacific Northwest relies more on hydropower than any other region of the country and is near the top in wind power production.  This can create challenges for the natural gas system as the region leans more on natural gas to produce power in low water years and when the wind isn’t blowing.

Dan Kirschner, Executive Director of the NWGA said, “There is plenty of gas available to fuel additional generation in the region, and the pipeline systems by which it is transported here from production areas are highly reliable.

Kirschner noted that the region is already carefully planning to ensure continued reliability.  “Our goal is the safe and reliable delivery of natural gas where it is needed, when it is needed,” said Kirschner.  “We’ve been actively working on planning and operational coordination with our electric counterparts in the region for more than a year now.”

NWGA and PNUCC members, along with other stakeholders are developing communication and operational protocols should disruptions occur in the existing system.  PNUCC and the NWGA are also collaborating on a new initiative called the Power & Natural Gas Planning Task Force to ensure that the Northwest is planning effectively to maintain its record of reliability.

Get To Know Our New Website: The Annual Energy Conference Kindle Contest

The NWGA has a revamped website and we’d like you to have a look around our shiny new digs. If you’re an attendee at our Annual Energy Conference find the answers to the following three questions on our website and email them to Ben Hemson at bhemson@nwga.org by 3 p.m. on Thursday, June 7th. Correct responses will be entered for a chance to win a Kindle Touch.

  1. According to the NWGA’s 2012 Natural Gas Outlook, what is the projected annual growth rate for natural gas consumption in the Northwest? (Hint: you can find the answer on our website and in the demand section of the 2012 Outlook Document).
  2. Summarize the NWGA’s mission in five words, extra points for creativity!
  3. What are the dates of the 2013 Annual Energy Conference? (Hint: Stare at the front page long enough and the answer may come to you).

Again, send your answers to Ben Hemson, bhemson@nwga.org by 3 p.m. on Thursday, June 7th. The winner will be announced during the conference’s closing remarks.

The Ninth Annual Energy Conference Twitter Contest!

Have a great quote, comment, or question you’d like to share from the Ninth Annual Energy Conference? Share it with us on Twitter!

By adding the hashtag: #2012AEC to the end of your tweet you’ll be entered to win our Twitter contest and take home an iPod shuffle (in a natural gas themed blue of course). By including “#2012AEC” in your tweet other conference attendees and our staff will be able to see what you’ve tweeted and most importantly enter you into the drawing for the iPod.

Not sure what the heck Twitter is but still want to participate? You can create an account here. Once you’ve signed up click here to get more information on just what a hash tag is.

Natural Gas and Climate Change in the Pacific Northwest

What is it about natural gas that makes it so suited to play a key role in both today’s and tomorrow’s energy mix? Let’s take a closer look. This white paper explores the many attributes and availability of natural gas, its versatility and how, moving forward, we can best use natural gas as part of a mix of resources to meet our environmental and economic objectives.

To download the file, click here