The Northwest depends on natural gas for producing electricity, heating homes and businesses, and powering industrial processes. Unlike some fuels, gas is difficult to store on-site. Both electric and natural gas utilities rely on the gas infrastructure system, a combination of pipelines and central storage facilities, to deliver gas the moment it is needed.
The size of the infrastructure system, and the type of arrangements utilities need to ensure a reliable gas supply, are dependent on regional supply and demand trends. This report discusses these trends, what new infrastructure options may be available, potential new gas users in the Northwest, and how these factors impact utility gas supply planning.
For the purpose of this report, “utility” refers both to natural gas distribution utilities and electric utilities that generate electricity using natural gas. Additionally, the Northwest market area is defined as British Columbia, Idaho, Oregon and Washington. Some gas used in the Northwest flows from Alberta and the U.S. Rockies; although these areas are not discussed in this report, they do impact Northwest gas supplies. Lastly, a “large” new user as discussed in this report is defined as consuming more than 150,000 dekatherms of gas per day (Dth/day).
Key Report Takeaways:
- Large new gas users could have more control over future infrastructure expansions than existing users, including utilities. Utilities may have to adapt their preferred gas supply and infrastructure strategies based on the location and timing of infrastructure projects chosen by large new gas users.
- Utilities need reliable pipeline transportation from a robust gas supply. As new users enter the region, and existing users change their gas consumption patterns, what is considered to be a robust supply may change. This could cause utilities to change their preferred gas supply portfolio and/or transportation product (firm or non-firm) needed to ensure reliable delivery of gas to the point of consumption.