Natural Gas Term of the Week: Hydrostatic Test

What it means: A strength test of equipment, a gas transmission or distribution pipe in our case, in which the item is filled with liquid, subjected to suitable pressure, and then shut in, and the pressure monitored.

See it in action: We’re just wrapping up dig safely month but natural gas utilities are out monitoring their system all year; ensuring that underground infrastructure is in safe operating condition.

Hydrostatic testing is one of the many tools our members use to ensure their pipelines are in good working order. It’s tough to find videos online of a natural gas pipeline undergoing hydrostatic testing but here’s someone performing a similar test on some pipes in their home. The general spirit of the operation is the same, although on a much smaller scale:


Natural Gas Terms of the Week are posted each Monday, check back weekly to boost your natural gas IQ.

Follow the NWGA on Twitter: @Ben_at_NWGA



Natural Gas Terms of the Week are posted each Monday, check back weekly to boost your natural gas IQ.

Follow the NWGA on Twitter: @Ben_at_NWGA

Natural Gas Term of the Week: Integrated Resource Plan

What it means: A utility planning method whereby alternative resource mixes including demand-side and supply-side options, are evaluated in order to determine which resource plan minimizes the overall cost of service, subject to reliability and various other constraints.

See it in action: The NWGA’s member utilities in the U.S. produce Integrated Resource Plans every 2-5 years depending on their location, in cooperation with regional stakeholders including regulators and consumers. Our lone Canadian utility member, FortisBC, engages in a similar process, developing a “Long Term Resource Plan.

In both countries the end result is a document that explores the wide variety of factors that a utility confronts and controls for in bringing natural gas to your home. The planning and creation of an IRP may takes well over a year as numerous variables are run through simulation programs designed to determine the best options for a utility in a number of planning environments. These simulations may take into account factors such as service disruptions due to maintenance, extremely hot or cold years, differing price levels for commodities or emerging markets such as natural gas vehicle demand. Other factors outlined in the report include forecasts for customer demand, decisions on where to procure natural gas and future infrastructure needs.

The end result is a comprehensive document outlining the utility’s plans for their specified timeframe and providing the sort of sound justification necessary for decision making should any issues arise in the future. To get a feel for what an actual IRP looks like here’s a list of the IRP’s and other publicly available data that goes into our annual Natural Gas Outlook.

A Natural Gas Term of the Week is posted each Monday, check back weekly to boost your natural gas IQ.  Follow the NWGA on Twitter @Ben_at_NWGA

America’s Natural Gas Utilities: Investing in Our Energy Future

Houston, TX – The largest global gas event of the year will leave a legacy for generations. The American Gas Association (AGA) announced today that a portion of the proceeds from the 17th International Conference and Exhibition on Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG 17), taking place this week, will be directed towards scholarships for students interested in pursuing a career in the natural gas industry.

“Natural gas is the foundation fuel for a clean and secure energy future and an economic revitalization for our country. We are making an investment in helping to develop a skilled workforce capable of maintaining the 21st century technology that transports and utilizes this clean energy source serving the needs of more than 177 million Americans,” said Dave McCurdy, President and CEO of the American Gas Association. “Our commitment will help ensure the continued vitality of the American workforce and solidify the legacy of this transformation in American energy.”

The AGA Scholarship program, which will provide $1 million in funding for students focused on fields related to energy, was unveiled at a press conference at LNG 17 in Houston, TX where strategic and commercial leaders and technical experts are participating in four days of sessions, workshops and tours of world-leading LNG facilities. McCurdy was joined by David Carroll, President of the Gas Technology Institute, David McClanahan, President and CEO of CenterPoint Energy and Eloise Dunn Stuhr, Vice President and Vice Chancellor for University Advancement with the University of Houston and UH System.

Students seeking a career in trade jobs that are in high demand in the natural gas industry such as HVAC, Welding, Pipefitters, Mechanical/Petroleum/Chemical Engineering, Engineering Technologies/Technicians, and specific natural gas programs such as Gas Utility Construction and Service will be eligible.  It is anticipated that over 200 students will receive scholarships over the next five years.

The following schools have been selected to participate:

  • Baton Rouge Community College; Baton Rouge, LA
  • Bishop State Community College; Mobile, AL
  • Bismarck State College; Bismarck ND
  • California State Polytechnic University, Pomona; Pomona, CA
  • Central Piedmont Community College; Charlotte, NC
  • City Colleges of Chicago; Chicago, IL
  • Clackamas Community College; Oregon City, OR
  • Colorado School of Mines; Golden, CO
  • Erie Community College; Buffalo, NY
  • Gwinnett Technical College; Lawrenceville, GA
  • International School of Hydrocarbon Measurement; Norman, OK
  • Ivy Tech Community College; Terre Haute, IN
  • Kilgore College; Kilgore, TX
  • Lamar Institute of Technology (LIT); Beaumont, TX
  • Los Angeles Trade–Technical College; Los Angeles, CA
  • Marshalltown Community College; Marshalltown, IA
  • Monroe Community College; Rochester, NY
  • Northeast Iowa Community College; Calmar, IA
  • Northeast Wisconsin Technical College; Green Bay, WI
  • Northern Virginia Community College; Annandale, VA
  • Pennsylvania College of Technology; Williamsport, PA
  • Salt Lake Community College; Salt Lake City, UT
  • Stevens Institute of Technology; Hoboken, NJ
  • University of Houston, Houston; TX
  • West Virginia University; Morgantown, WV
  • Westmoreland County Community College; Youngwood, PA



Natural gas methane emissions focus of new WSU study

PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University’s (WSU) Laboratory for Atmospheric Research is leading a nationwide field study to better understand methane emissions associated with the distribution of natural gas.
Beginning this month, a WSU research team led by Regents Professor Brian Lamb will quantify methane emissions throughout local gas systems (from city border to customer meter) and use the data to estimate a national methane emissions rate for U.S. natural gas distribution systems.
“This work is important and the study is unique,’’ said Lamb. “It is critical to do these careful measurements along the entire natural gas industry supply chain, so that we have a clear understanding of the impact of the industry’s greenhouse gas emissions. These are critical questions as our nation faces the challenges of energy, sustainability and climate change.’’
The work will be conducted with coordination and support from major natural gas utilities, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Conestoga-Rovers and Associates, an engineering and environmental consulting firm.
Potent greenhouse gas
Large amounts of natural gas are domestically available because of dramatic advancements in technology, creating significant economic and energy security benefits for the nation. Composed mostly of methane, natural gas is a cleaner fossil fuel that, when burned, produces less carbon dioxide and fewer greenhouse gas emissions than any other fossil fuel.
However, uncombusted natural gas is a potent greenhouse gas. When it is released into the atmosphere at various points along the supply chain, it has a higher warming potential than carbon dioxide, the principal contributor of manmade climate change. Greenhouse gas emissions from human activity are believed to be impacting the earth’s climate.
Obtaining direct, carefully measured data under real-world conditions is essential to determine the scope of methane emissions from natural gas operations, including local distribution systems. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) most recent assessment indicates methane emissions from natural gas operations are lower than previous reports, with data based on emissions estimates. A greater understanding of the total methane loss throughout natural gas operations can play a key role in development of sound energy policies and management practices.
Detailed, accurate measurements
The researchers will make direct emission measurements component by component at company gas facilities and for individual underground pipeline leaks.
The American Gas Association (AGA), EDF, National Grid, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E)and Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) commissioned this study to measure methane emissions when gas is routed through local service and distribution main pipelines, as well as gas metering and regulating stations.
The WSU study is part of a two-year research series on which EDF is collaborating with the natural gas industry and universities to more accurately characterize and understand methane emissions across the value chain. National Grid, PG&E and SoCalGas are providing access to their gas facilities and equipment for tests in different regions throughout the country. Several companies are participating through AGA and are also providing access to their gas facilities for testing, including CenterPoint Energy, Citizens Energy Group, NW Natural, Piedmont Natural Gas, Questar Gas and Xcel Energy.
Work begins this month
“Brian Lamb and WSU’s Laboratory for Atmospheric Research were instrumental in the first national natural gas emissions study issued by the EPA in the early 1990s,’’said Mark Brownstein, associate vice president and chief counsel, EDF’s U.S. Energy and Climate Program. “His expertise is valuable in both designing the right scientific approach to gather data and then extrapolating those results nationally.
“We expect this study to continue to advance the discussion around methane leakage and, to the extent necessary, provide a business case for public utility commissions to better monitor and reduce leaks that lead to methane emissions,” he said.
Field work will begin this month in multiple U.S. cities in coordination with local utilities and distribution service companies. The research team is carefully selecting numerous sites in various regions around the country that meet specific criteria in order to ensure that the dataset will be as comprehensive and representative for national scaling as possible. Results are expected to be released in a peer-reviewed journal in early 2014.
A scientific advisory panel comprised of professors and experts in the fields relevant to the study will serve as independent advisors, charged with reviewing the appropriateness of the methodologies, results and statistical methods.

Report Finds Growth of Natural Gas Vehicles(NGVs) Would Not Cause Spike in Natural Gas Prices

WASHINGTON–A new study from the American Clean Skies Foundation (ACSF) finds that a transition to natural gas-fueled heavy duty and light duty vehicles over the next decade will have a minimal impact on natural gas prices.

The report, “Driving on Natural Gas: Fuel Price and Demand Scenarios for Natural Gas Vehicles to 2025,” used three scenarios to calculate potential natural gas demand and price impacts attributable to natural gas vehicles (NGVs).

“We found that the estimated level of natural gas demand from NGVs, even under the most optimistic scenario, accounted for only about 2 percent of the overall market by 2025,” said Gregory C. Staple, ACSF’s CEO and co-author of the report. “And the incremental rise in fuel prices for this high growth scenario was only approximately 25 cents per MMBtu, or 5 percent.”

“That’s largely because we expect the growth in natural gas vehicles over the next decade to provide adequate time for supply and infrastructure developments to keep pace with demand, and thus to moderate any incremental natural gas price impact,” Staple added.

ACSF’s optimistic growth scenario included high adoption rates of both light duty and heavy duty NGVs. In this scenario, the transportation sector’s natural gas demand grew from 57 billion cubic feet (Bcf) in 2013 to 711 Bcf in 2025, which equates to roughly 2.3 percent of total demand that year. The scenario estimated roughly 2.4 million NGVs on the road by 2025, of which 480,000 are heavy duty trucks. The effect on 2025 natural gas prices across the scenarios ranged from an additional 3 cents to 27 cents per MMBtu.

The report highlights the opportunity to diversify America’s transportation sector away from petroleum-based fuels. Currently, 93 percent of the country’s transportation fuel is petroleum based, leaving the economy susceptible to oil price shocks. In the report’s highest NGV growth scenario, more than 180 million barrels of petroleum fuels are displaced by natural gas in 2025 and almost 1 billion barrels of oil consumption avoided cumulatively from 2013-2025.

Report co-author Patrick Bean said, “Our analysis should give businesses, consumers, regulators and political leaders confidence that a plausible transition to NGVs can achieve energy security objectives while having minimal impact on natural gas prices and competition for the fuel.”

The report also found that retail prices for compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG) will remain attractive compared to diesel and gasoline even if natural gas prices increase significantly. Currently, about 20 percent of the retail CNG price is attributable to the raw natural gas cost. Even if natural gas prices double from $4/MMBtu to $8/MMBtu, the commodity component of retail CNG prices will be about 40 percent, and CNG will cost about $2.20 per gallon of gasoline equivalent.

ACSF retained Navigant Consulting, Inc. to partner in the scenario development and to conduct some of the analysis. The report includes data tables with assumptions and results.

Copies of the report can be downloaded here:

Northwest Gas Association’s 2013 Natural Gas Outlook Highlights Abundant Supply, Growing Generation Demand

Portland, OR – This week the Northwest Gas Association (NWGA) released the 2013 edition of their annual Natural Gas Outlook Study, a regional look at natural gas supply, demand and infrastructure in the Pacific Northwest.

Released annually, the Gas Outlook is a detailed ten-year look at expected natural gas demand, supply availability and prices in the Northwest. The Outlook offers unique insight, representing a consensus view of the regional natural gas market developed by industry participants directly serving Washington, Oregon, Idaho and British Columbia.

“The Northwest Gas Outlook is an important tool for industry participants and observers,” said Frank Morehouse, NWGA Board President and President and CEO of MDU Utilities Group. “It provides vital insight into our region as we discuss changes in natural gas demand during a period of historic domestic supply,” he added.

The 2013 release continues the trend of steady, yet modest, regional growth in natural gas demand; projecting an annual growth rate of 1.2%. This rate leads to cumulative growth of 10.3% by 2022, slightly higher than the 2012 study. The trend toward increased gas demand for power generation is also notable, rising from an annual rate of 1.0% in the 2012 report to 2.6% in the new release.

“Our regional load profile is changing, while industrial loads once made up almost half of our natural gas use today they make up a third, with the remainder closely split between generation, residential and commercial uses” said Dan Kirschner, Executive Director of the NWGA. Kirschner continued, “This trend reinforces the value of continued communication between regional stakeholders as abundant, clean burning natural gas remains a fundamental fuel for the Pacific Northwest.

The full text version of the 2013 Natural Gas Outlook Study is available to view or download at

The release of the 2013 Outlook comes on the heels of the publication of the Potential Gas Committee’s (PGC) biannual report estimating U.S. domestic natural gas resources to be at record levels.  The report, Potential Supply of Natural Gas in the United States, concludes that the United States possesses a technically recoverable natural gas resource potential of 2,384 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), an increase of more than 25 percent over the PGC’s 2011 report and the highest resource evaluation in the PGC’s 48-year history.

2013 Gas Outlook

Regionally, the demand growth projections in this 2013 Outlook remain modest across most sectors reflecting expected economic conditions (see 2013 Regional Economic Outlook). Gas use for generating electricity shows the most significant growth in the forecast period. Meanwhile, Northwest consumers are benefitting as regional gas distribution companies (LDCs) pass the lower cost of natural gas through to customers.

U.S. Domestic Natural Gas Resources at Record Levels

Washington, DC – The American Gas Association (AGA), in coordination with the Potential Gas Committee (PGC), today released the PGC’s year-end 2012 biennial report: Potential Supply of Natural Gas in the United States. The new assessment finds that the United States possesses a technically recoverable natural gas resource potential of 2,384 trillion cubic feet (Tcf). This is the highest resource evaluation in the PGC’s 48 year history—exceeding by 486 Tcf the previous record-high assessment from year-end 2010.

“This ground up, science-based assessment emphasizes our nation’s robust supply of natural gas, and confirms that we can continue to rely on abundant, clean natural gas for our future energy needs,” said Dave McCurdy, president and CEO of AGA. “By investing in our energy future and harnessing the promises of this resource, we can look forward to decades of market stability – and that’s great news for our customers.”

The future supply of domestic natural gas continues to grow due to the emergence and advancement of key technologies that are able to unlock gas production from reservoirs such as shale formations. For the next decade and beyond, domestic natural gas supplies are expected to be high enough to support an increase in demand across all sectors – unlocking the door for expansion in residential, business, transportation and commercial and industrial applications.

When the PGC’s results are combined with the U.S. Department of Energy’s latest available determination of proved dry-gas reserves — 304.6 Tcf as of year-end 2010 — the United States has a total available future supply of 2,688.5 Tcf, an increase of 486.1 Tcf over the previous evaluation.

The PGC’s year-end 2012 assessment of 2,384 Tcf includes 2,226 Tcf of gas attributable to “traditional” reservoirs (conventional, tight sands and carbonates, and shales) and 158 Tcf in coalbed reservoirs.

“The PGC’s year-end 2012 assessment reaffirms the committee’s conviction that abundant, recoverable natural gas resources exist within our borders, both onshore and offshore, and in all types of reservoirs—from conventional, ‘tight’ and shales, to coals,” said Dr. John B. Curtis, professor of Geology and Geological Engineering at the Colorado School of Mines and Director of its Potential Gas Agency, which provides guidance and technical assistance to the Potential Gas Committee.

“Every day, America’s natural gas utilities deliver clean, domestic natural gas to more than 65 million residential, commercial and industrial natural gas customers,” said McCurdy. “Natural gas can help improve our economy, national security and the environment – and this assessment shows we have the necessary resource abundance to help make those goals a reality for our nation. We appreciate and welcome the fact-based, time-tested objective work that the PGC and its members have put into developing this valuable report.”

Natural Gas Term of the Week: Pilot

What it means: A small flame, which is utilized to ignite the gas at the main burner(s).

See it in action: Something has to start the combustion necessary for natural gas to work in your home appliances; the pilot’s small flame helps kick start ignition when you call upon it.

While pilot lights are still in use for many larger home appliances like water heaters and furnaces, they have been replaced in some in-home applications by electric igniters. If you have a newer gas cooking range you may be familiar with the clicking noise caused by the electric starters.

Natural Gas Terms of the Week are posted each Monday, check back weekly to boost your natural gas IQ.

Follow the NWGA on Twitter: @Ben_at_NWGA

Natural Gas Term of the Week: Throughput

What it means: Volume of natural gas that may be carried on a pipeline over a period of time. All gas volumes delivered.

See it in action: Natural gas pipelines utilize a variety of operating pressures in order to send more or less gas to consumers depending on demand.  Therefore the total throughput on a pipeline in a given day, week or month may vary depending on the line pack. If it’s cold outside gas demand is typically higher, meaning more gas will be packed into the pipeline to be brought to market increasing throughput.  Gas use in the Northwest peaks during the winter months, so that’s when you can expect to see the highest throughputs on pipelines serving our region.

Natural Gas Terms of the Week are posted each Monday, check back weekly to boost your natural gas IQ.

Follow the NWGA on Twitter: @Ben_at_NWGA