NW Natural Names Greg Hazelton Chief Financial Officer

PORTLAND, OR — Northwest Natural Gas Company, NW Natural (NYSE: NWN), has hired Gregory C. Hazelton to serve as the company’s new Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, effective June 30. He replaces Stephen P. Feltz, who is retiring after 33 years with NW Natural.

Hazelton comes to NW Natural from Hawaiian Electric Industries, where he has been the vice president of finance, and treasurer and controller. Prior, he held various positions in investment banking at Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers and, most recently, UBS Investment Bank, where he was a managing director in the Global Power and Utilities Group. Hazelton also held various accounting, finance and business development positions with Portland General Electric.

Hazelton will be responsible for overseeing the company’s treasury, accounting, financial reporting, budgeting and forecasting, financial analysis, investor relations, and supply chain activities.

Hazelton obtained a master’s of business administration degree from the University of Chicago and a bachelor of science in business administration from Warner Pacific College. He also received a Certified Public Accountant certificate from the State of Washington in 1996.

About NW Natural
NW Natural (NYSE: NWN) is headquartered in Portland, Ore., and provides natural gas service to about 707,000 residential, commercial, and industrial customers in Oregon and Southwest Washington. It is the largest independent natural gas utility in the Pacific Northwest. Additional information is available at nwnatural.com.

Where’s the Economy Heading? The 2015 Outlook Has Some Hints

We’re highlighting some of the guest posts featured in our 2015 Outlook here on the blog. The following is an economic outlook sidebar by Avista Corp. Chief Economist, Dr. Grant Forsyth. To access the full Outlook study please click here.

GDP growth in the U.S. and Canada over the last several years can be called many things, but nothing that can be printed in a family friendly economic outlook.

Looking across forecasters, 2015 is still predicted to be the high water mark for U.S. GDP growth, which is expected to be around 3%.  The sharp drop in oil and natural gas prices is expected to have a net negative impact on Canada’s GDP growth—in recent months average GDP forecasts for 2015 have fallen from around 2.5% to 2%.  Inflation forecasts for 2015 are averaging below the 2% central target of the Federal Reserve (the Fed) and the Bank of Canada (BOC).

After 2015, a majority of forecasters expect U.S. GDP growth to slowly decelerate, largely reflecting a reversal of the Fed’s low short-term interest policy.  At the time of this writing, futures contracts for the Federal Funds interest rate predict a policy change in the mid- to latter-half of 2015.  Given the expected timing of the Fed’s move, which is predicted to come before any BOC tightening, a growing number of forecasters (including U.S. futures markets as of April 2015) expect a continued depreciation of the loonie against the dollar in 2015.  Given an improving U.S. economy, this should boost Canada’s non-oil export growth.

In the Pacific Northwest (PNW), Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia (B.C.) will largely follow the fortunes of the U.S. and Canadian economies in 2015.  On the U.S. side, although the majority of growth will occur in the Puget Sound, Portland, and Boise metro areas, employment growth is expected to pick-up in smaller MSAs.  In 2015, U.S. PNW employment growth will likely exceed U.S. growth, which forecasters expected to be in the low 2% range.  Similarly, Canadian forecasters see B.C.’s employment growth in same range as Canada’s growth, which is expected to be 1% or less.

The primary external risks to North American growth include slowing growth in China, recessionary growth in Japan, and near-recessionary growth in Europe.  Ongoing political instability in Greece, the Ukraine, and the Middle East also offer potential drags to growth.  Risks internal to North America include larger than expected declines in U.S. consumer and business spending caused by Fed interest rate increases and Canada’s historically high household debt levels.

Sources: Bank of Canada, Bank of Montreal, B.C. Stats, Bloomberg.com, CIBC, Canada Department of Finance, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Scotiabank, Statistics Canada, RBC, T.D. Economics, The Economist, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Federal Reserve. 

Released annually, the Gas Outlook provides a detailed 10-year overview of expected natural gas demand, supply availability, infrastructure development and prices in the Northwest. The Outlook represents a consensus view of the regional natural gas market developed by industry participants that directly serve natural gas consumers in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and British Columbia. 

To access the full 2015 Outlook study along with a recording of our recent webinar with NWGA Executive Director, Dan Kirschner, please click here.

Fortis BC CEO Michael Mulcahy Op Ed: LNG projects provide benefits to B.C. gas customers

SURREY, B.C. – On several occasions over the last few weeks, critics quoted in the media have provided inaccurate information about FortisBC’s LNG-related projects. Most recently they’ve claimed that our LNG projects won’t benefit our customers who heat their homes and cook their food with natural gas.

That’s simply untrue.

The reality is that all of our nearly one million natural gas customers across the province will directly benefit from the development of these projects.

New large industrial customers – including the proposed small-scale Woodfibre LNG facility near Squamish – will be required to pay a rate that both covers the cost of infrastructure upgrades and provides additional financial benefits to help lower natural gas delivery rates for all our customers. In addition, we will have long-term contracts in place with these new large industrial customers, which provide security to mitigate risks to our existing customers.

As a utility, we have a responsibility to ensure reasonable costs for our customers. One of the ways we do this is by exploring new markets for natural gas and making strategic investments to reach new customers. That’s why today, we are capitalizing on strong market demand in LNG – namely as a cleaner fuel for B.C.’s transportation industry and a better energy source for communities both here and abroad.

We operate the only two LNG facilities in B.C. and have decades of experience cooling, storing and transporting natural gas. For more than four decades, our Tilbury LNG facility has safely operated and kept prices lower for our nearly one million gas customers in B.C., adding stored gas to the system during times of high demand or when market prices are high, like the coldest winter days.

Beyond helping to keep gas rates lower for our customers, LNG is having a positive impact on the environment – allowing consumers to shift away from diesel and fuel oil which in turn reduces greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts.

Fleet operators such as Vedder Transport and Smithrite Disposal are switching their vehicles to natural gas. LNG is also being pursued as a marine fuel. B.C. Ferries recently announced the construction of three new dual-fuel ferries powered by LNG. By switching to natural gas, B.C. Ferries estimates reduced carbon emissions equivalent to taking 1,900 passenger vehicles off the road annually.

Natural gas continues to play a key role in transitioning remote communities to a cleaner fuel. Today, we help local energy providers in Whitehorse and Inuvik offset diesel electricity generation with natural gas through LNG transported from our Tilbury facility by truck. In Revelstoke, we are exploring an opportunity to convert our piped propane system to natural gas, supplied by LNG.

In Hawaii, oil-based power generation is still the norm. Leaders there are looking for ways to reduce emissions and move to a more renewable energy mix. They see natural gas as an important part of the transition. In fact, Hawaiian Electric has signed a conditional agreement to take LNG supply from our Tilbury facility, subject to final approvals in B.C. and Hawaii.

For more than 40 years, our natural gas customers have benefited from liquefied natural gas. And they’ll continue to benefit as we expand our LNG offerings into new markets.

To learn more about the ways that natural gas – and more specifically LNG – will benefit you, visit fortisbc.com/LNG.

Michael Mulcahy is the president and CEO of FortisBC, a regulated utility focused on providing safe, reliable energy, including natural gas, electricity and propane.

Northwest Gas Association’s 2015 Natural Gas Outlook Projects Moderate Growth, Explores Accelerated Demand Scenarios

PORTLAND, OR – This week the Northwest Gas Association (NWGA) released the 2015 edition of the annual Natural Gas Outlook Study, a regional look at natural gas supply, demand and infrastructure in the Pacific Northwest.

Released annually, the Gas Outlook provides a detailed 10-year overview of expected natural gas demand, supply availability, infrastructure development and prices in the Northwest. The Outlook represents a consensus view of the regional natural gas market developed by industry participants that directly serve natural gas consumers in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and British Columbia.

“The Natural Gas Outlook is an important point of reference for energy stakeholders in the Pacific Northwest,” said Ed Brewer, NWGA Board President and Vice President and General Manager of Williams Northwest Pipeline. “These stakeholders are navigating decisions concerning abundant North American natural gas supply options, existing and potential new markets and the infrastructure needed to bring the supply and demand together,” he added.

The 2015 release notes that North America’s robust natural gas supply picture persists and that natural gas is expected to remain a good value throughout the forecast period when compared to other energy sources. Regional demand for natural gas is expected to grow an average of 1.2 percent per year. The use of natural gas to fuel electric generation is the largest driver of demand growth, as the region develops new gas fired generation to serve load growth and more flexible gas fired resources to complement intermittent renewable generation like wind and solar.

The 2015 Outlook also includes two scenarios that explore the potential for accelerated growth in the power generation and industrial sectors. Looming coal plant retirements and manufacturers seeking access to abundant and affordable North American natural gas led to these additions analyzing potential large changes in demand that do not show up in the regular Outlook data set.

“The accelerated demand scenarios in the 2015 Outlook point toward the potential for significant growth in generation, industrial and export loads,” said Dan Kirschner, NWGA Executive Director.  Kirschner noted that the current natural gas system operates efficiently and reliably to serve existing loads but that significant growth will amplify and accelerate the need for incremental delivery capacity. “It can take five years or more to permit and build or expand natural gas infrastructure so our members take great care to consider and prepare for future growth.”

The 2015 Natural Gas Outlook Study is available to view or download at:

https://www.nwga.org/2015-natural-gas-outlook/

2015 Gas Outlook

The 2015 release notes that North America’s robust natural gas supply picture persists and that natural gas is expected to remain a good value throughout the forecast period when compared to other energy sources. Regional demand for natural gas is expected to grow an average of 1.2 percent per year. The use of natural gas to fuel electric generation is the largest driver of demand growth, as the region develops new gas fired generation to serve load growth and more flexible gas fired resources to complement intermittent renewable generation like wind and solar.

New Initiative Will Help Connect Veterans with Natural Gas Jobs

Washington, D.C. – The American Gas Association (AGA) is participating in a new initiative to help connect military veterans with energy jobs. A partnership between key government agencies and leading energy trade associations, the Utility Industry Workforce Initiative is a multi-year effort dedicated to facilitating the recruitment, training and retention of exiting service members, veterans and their spouses into employment in the utility industry. While demand for natural gas continues to grow, much of the current workforce is expected to retire in the next decade, creating tremendous employment opportunity for the approximately 200,000 veterans leaving the military each year.

“Having courageously served their country in our armed services, America’s military veterans are an excellent fit for the nation’s natural gas utilities,” said AGA President and CEO Dave McCurdy. “The leadership skills, focus and dedication honed through military service are ideal qualities for building a workforce focused on service and meeting critical energy needs. We are honored to assist these dedicated men and women with education and ongoing career development, and to welcome them into our member companies and communities as we work to deliver America’s energy future.”

In addition to AGA, the Initiative is supported by government agencies including the U.S. Departments of Energy, Defense, Labor and Veterans Affairs, and the other founding members of the Center for Energy Workforce Development (CEWD), including the Edison Electric Institute, the Nuclear Energy Institute and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. Participation will be open to other interested stakeholders, including individual military services, which may choose to join voluntarily.

The Initiative joins other energy industry efforts to connect military veterans with energy careers. Many natural gas utilities have a long history of encouraging veterans to join their workforce, and offer training and continuing education that help new employees advance, as well as support programs specifically developed for veterans and employees who may also serve in the Reserves or National Guard. Utilities throughout the nation partner with veteran and labor organizations, participate in and sponsor career fairs and employment events, and work with veteran-focused agencies and hiring firms to publicize job openings. In 2011, the CEWD, launched the Troops to Energy Jobs program, which accelerates the training and employability of veterans for key energy positions, and provides a roadmap for veterans seeking to enter the industry.

First Look at the 2015 Natural Gas Outlook

We’ll have a more robust announcement and landing page for the 2015 edition of our annual Natural Gas Outlook Study next week, but it’s already here so we’re sharing it early.

Please click on the image below to download a copy of the Outlook. Stay tuned for a webinar on June 18 from noon-1 pm (PT) with NWGA Executive Director, Dan Kirschner, where we’ll discuss some of the key developments in this year’s version.

{Click Here To Download The 2015 Outlook}

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NW Natural customers to receive a credit on their June gas bill

PORTLAND, Ore. — Northwest Natural Gas Company, dba NW Natural (NYSE:NWN), will issue an interstate storage credit to its Oregon customers on their June bills for the 14th year in a row.

This year’s total credit is for approximately $9.6 million. The average residential customer’s credit will equal about $10, and the average commercial customer’s will be nearly $43.

The credit results from efficient pipeline capacity management and effective use of the company’s underground natural gas storage facility in Mist, Oregon, during 2014. The technique used to make the most of these resources is called “optimization.”

In the last 14 years, customers have received more than $101 million in bill credits from optimized pipeline and storage capacity.