NWGA Gets a Mention in the Medford Mail Tribune

NWGA Executive Director, Dan Kirschner, was on the road in Medford, OR yesterday talking natural gas at the Medford/Jackson County Chamber of Commerce.  Dan, along with Steve Harper, Director of Gas Supply for Avista, spoke on what Southern Oregon consumers have gained from the expansion in gas supply due to shale.

Dan and Steve’s comments were highlighted in an article today in the Medford Mail Tribune; here’s a quick quote from Dan, you can read the whole article at the link below.

 “When I started this job 12 years ago, natural gas was a scarce resource,” Kirschner said. “We didn’t know how we were going to find the resources we needed to meet the needs we knew we were going to have. Suddenly we started hearing this term ‘shale gas’ and we had a revolution. We’ve moved from scarcity to today abundance.”

To read the entire article at the Mail Tribune website, click here.

Washington State Regulators Approve Pipeline Replacement Plans

OLYMPIA, Wash. – State regulators have approved plans by the state’s four investor-owned natural gas companies to modernize and update portions of their pipeline delivery systems, replacing hundreds of miles of older pipes with state-of-the-art plastic pipe.

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) last year directed the companies to survey their pipeline infrastructure and propose plans to replace pipeline with “elevated risk.” As incentive for such pipeline replacement, the UTC policy permitted the gas companies to recover costs each year, rather than waiting for a future formal rate proceeding.

“Pipeline safety is an ongoing concern, and one should never be complacent,” said UTC Chairman Dave Danner. “But these plans demonstrate that Washington’s gas utilities are committed to the safety of our state’s pipeline infrastructure. Unlike many states, we have almost none of the more dangerous cast iron pipeline that has failed in other parts of the country, and utilities all have sound plans going forward to replace some plastic pipe that has shown a tendency toward minor cracking.”

The four natural gas companies are Avista, Puget Sound Energy (PSE), Cascade Natural Gas Corp. and Northwest Natural Gas Co. The utilities serve about 1.2 million natural gas customers in Washington.

In their plans, the companies identified the pipe targeted for replacement and described how the company assessed risk and established its replacement priorities. The plans also included a schedule for determining the location of elevated-risk pipe. The plans must be updated every two years.

• Avista’s system has some older polyethylene pipe installed prior to the 1970s. Over the next two years, Avista will replace 60 miles of pipe in unincorporated Spokane County. The company has already completed replacement of plastic pipe in Davenport and Odessa.

The Spokane-based company has about 3,400 miles of natural gas pipeline in the state, and serves some 150,000 natural gas customers, primarily in Eastern Washington.

• PSE also has some older polyethylene pipe in its service territory, 400 miles of which it will upgrade over the next 20 years. In the next two years, it will upgrade 60 miles of pipe located in scattered areas from Marysville to Olympia.

In addition, the company will replace the last remaining18 miles of bare steel pipe. The company has already replaced some 200 miles of such pipe in Seattle and Tacoma over the last decade.

PSE’s miles of natural-gas distribution system in Washington includes more than 12,000 miles of pipeline. The Bellevue-based company supplies natural gas to 783,659 customers in King, Kittitas, Lewis, Pierce, Snohomish and Thurston counties.

• Cascade Natural Gas will replace 62 miles of bare steel pipeline in Longview, Shelton and Anacortes, a third of it by 2015. The Kennewick-based company has almost 4,500 miles of natural gas pipelines in its distribution network in the state.

The company serves almost 200,000 customers in 65 communities throughout the state, including Bellingham, Bremerton, Mount Vernon, Aberdeen, Longview, Moses Lake, Kennewick, Walla Walla, Wenatchee and Yakima.

• Northwest Natural Gas has scheduled all bare steel pipe to be replaced by the end of next year. The Portland-based company has about 1,700 miles of natural gas pipeline in Washington, serving about 72,000 residential and commercial customers in Clark, Skamania and Klickitat counties.

Currently, each gas company regulated by the commission recovers costs through periodic general rate cases, which can take up to 11 months. The commission created a special cost-recovery mechanism for the gas companies to replace high-risk pipe while allowing a faster recovery of the investment in new pipe in customer rates.

In 2011, the federal government adopted a new program that required natural gas distribution companies to develop procedures to ensure the safety and reliability of the pipeline delivery system. The new regulations require operators to identify those conditions, characteristics or threats that cause leaks in order to make their systems more reliable and safe.

Established by the Legislature in 1955, the UTC’s Pipeline Safety Program regulates the safety practices of 31 pipeline companies and conducts safety inspections on more than 24,000 miles of natural gas and hazardous-liquid pipelines in Washington.


Avista Corp. to Acquire Alaska Energy and Resources Company

SPOKANE, WA- Avista Corp today announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Alaska Energy and Resources Company (AERC), a privately-held company based in Juneau, Alaska. When the transaction is complete, AERC will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Avista Corp.

The purchase price at closing will be $170 million, less the assumption of debt and other customary closing adjustments. The transaction will be funded through the issuance of Avista common stock to the shareholders of AERC. The transaction is expected to close by July 1, 2014, following the receipt of necessary regulatory approvals and the satisfaction of other closing conditions. We expect that the addition of AERC to Avista Corp. will be slightly negative to earnings in 2014, and that it will contribute positively to earnings in 2015.

The primary subsidiary of AERC is Alaska Electric Light and Power Company (AEL&P), the oldest regulated electric utility in Alaska. In 2012, AEL&P had annual revenues of $42 million and a total rate base of $111 million. AEL&P, with 60 fulltime employees, serves approximately 15,900 customers in the city and borough of Juneau. The utility has a firm retail peak load of approximately 80 Megawatts (MW) and serves nearly 100 percent of its load with 102.7 MW of renewable hydroelectric generation capacity. The utility has 93.9 MW of diesel generating capacity to provide back-up service to all firm customers when necessary.

In addition to the regulated utility, AERC owns the AJT Mining subsidiary, which is an inactive mining company holding certain mining properties.

“AEL&P’s 120-year culture of service and community partnership is a great long-term fit with Avista Corp. We have found the company to have similar cultural values and focus on providing safe, reliable service to its customers that Avista has held dear for nearly 125 years. We look forward to working with AEL&P’S highly skilled and dedicated management and employees, and to being part of the Juneau community,” said Avista Corp. Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Scott Morris. “This agreement reflects Avista’s strategy to expand and diversify energy assets and deliver long-term value to the customers, communities and investors we serve.”

“AERC’s board of directors wanted to find a qualified utility buyer that would focus on providing reliable and competitively priced electric service, be a contributing member of the Juneau community and provide an environment for AEL&P employees to continue to realize job satisfaction and accomplishment,” said Tim McLeod, AEL&P president and general manager. “Avista, whose corporate culture is remarkably similar to that of AEL&P, satisfies these needs very well.”

NW Natural’s Gas Assistance Program Donates More Than $120,000 to Customers in Need

PORTLAND, Ore. — Northwest Natural Gas Company’s Gas Assistance Program (GAP) contributed more than $120,000 to more than 1,100 customers who needed help paying their gas heating bills.

This is the 31st year that NW Natural has run its low-income energy assistance program (GAP), donating a total of more than $5.4 million to people who need help over that period.

“We are very pleased that so many of our customers and community members stepped up to help their neighbors in need,” said Von Summers, community affairs manager.

For the 2012-2013 GAP year which ended October 31, half of the $120,000 donated came from NW Natural customers, while the other half came from NW Natural’s Corporate Philanthropy shareholder fund. Some of the money was given directly, while other donations came through a campaign with United Way and Oregon Food Bank, called “Help with the Basics.”

The gift from shareholders covers all administrative fees so every single penny donated by the public goes directly to the program. Donations are tax deductible and contributions for the 2013-2014 season – which starts today – can be made online at: https://www.nwnatural.com/AboutNWNatural/Community/CorporateContributions/NonProfitPartnerships.

Gassy Commuting in Portland

Is natural gas starting to find its way onto our roads as a vehicle fuel? There continue to be numerous reports that say the answer is yes but I hadn’t seen much in my neck of the woods…until last week.

Last week on my drive home into Portland, OR I had two NGV sightings in a mere two days, not bad! Pictures included below as proof:

Natural Gas Term of the Week: City Gate

What it means: A point or measuring station at which a gas distribution company receives gas from a pipeline company or transmission system.

See it in action: The city gate serves an important role in the natural gas distribution network, as the point where gas leaves the long distance transportation system for the lower pressure, more diffuse, systems of local distribution companies (LDCs) who deliver the gas directly to your home or business. Typically city gates have a predetermined required pressure range for the gas to be handed over to the local system. It is also where the odorant, mercaptan, is added to the gas, giving it that distinctive rotten egg smell.

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

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