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Buccaneer Is First to File in Race to Florida

Buccaneer Is First to File in Race to Florida

While a FERC filing does not a pipeline make, it's still a step in the right direction. Williams' Buccaneer Gas Pipeline last week became the first of three competing projects to serve Florida power generation demand to file with the FERC.

However, the other two greenfield projects are anything but out of the race. And Florida's only interstate pipeline to date, Florida Gas Transmission (FGT), also has plans for two expansions under way that also target power generation demand.

Buccaneer would have firm capacity of 900,000 Dth/d. The 674-mile system is proposed to have 411 miles of 36-inch pipeline extending from Mobile County, AL, across the Gulf of Mexico to Pasco County, FL. An additional 121 miles of 36-inch mainline and 142 miles of 16- to 30-inch laterals are designed to deliver gas to power generation facilities and other gas users throughout the state. The $1.5 billion project has a targeted in-service date of April 1, 2002.

"Our goal is to transport environmentally preferred natural gas to electric power generators and local distribution companies throughout Florida so that the state can achieve its own goal of keeping its air clean," said Cuba Wadlington Jr., Williams Gas Pipeline chief operating officer.

In July 1998, the Florida Reliability Coordinating Council submitted a plan to the Florida Public Service Commission outlining the need for more than 10,000 MW of additional power generation capacity within the state by 2007 (see NGI Oct. 19, 1998). If fueled entirely by gas, this would require an additional 1.5 Bcf/d of capacity. Power demand is soaring particularly in southwestern Florida where currently there are no gas pipelines.

"When the Buccaneer pipeline system is operated at design capacity and, assuming equal energy equivalent amounts of fuel oil and coal are displaced by cleaner burning natural gas, the reductions in sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter emissions are approximately 128,000, 23,000 and 7,300 tons per year, respectively," according to the Buccaneer application. "Florida's commitment to being in compliance with the Clean Air Act means that existing industrial and commercial plants, which are now coal or oil fueled, will be encouraged to switch to natural gas as their primary fuel source."

In competition with Buccaneer to bring more gas to Florida, the Coastal Corp. is proposing its Gulfstream project with capacity of between 700 MMcf/d and 1 Bcf/d (see NGI March 8). Gulfstream would follow a route essentially identical to that of Buccaneer. Also in the running is Duke Energy's land-based Sawgrass project, which would have capacity of about 1 Bcf/d and begin near Coden, AL, cross southern Mobile Bay and continue into the Florida Panhandle and down the peninsula (see NGI July 12). It would cost about $1.3 billion and is planned to be in service by 2003. Because it would take a land route, Sawgrass proposes to serve gas demand in Alabama and the Florida Panhandle.

Williams last week filed an optional certificate at the FERC, which means the company did not have to include customer contracts in its initial application. Spokesman Chris Stockton said Williams is in negotiations with potential Buccaneer customers. He said an open season yielded expressions of interest for about 1.3 Bcf/d. "We've had really good interest.. Really, it's just a matter of continuing to negotiate."

Stockton said numerous meetings with landowners and local officials have made for a number of Buccaneer route changes. Still, the project could serve about a dozen power plants. "The other [competing] companies have recognized that, too. There's a lot of natural gas that's going to be needed in Florida to fuel these plants. That's what these projects are all about.

"The fact that we are the first to file is really just an indication that we've been on the ground since January meeting with different state officials, county officials.... We've really been working on this for a long time."

Since announcing Sawgrass in July, most of Duke Energy's activity with the project has involved meeting with potential customers. "We've been very pleased with the customers' reaction to the pipeline and the interest in it," said spokesman Rick Rhodes. A Sawgrass open season has yet to be scheduled but probably will be in early 2000. An application at FERC will follow, and in-service is planned for 2003, Rhodes said. Sawgrass has a committed load of about 250 MMcf/d from Duke wholesale power development business.

Gulfstream Receives Finishing Touches

Coastal spokesman Joe Martucci said the pipeline is putting the finishing touches on its FERC application for Gulfstream and will make a filing in the next couple of weeks. "We don't view this as a race to the door of the Commission." He said about 20 public meetings have been held to discuss the project with local officials, and some minor route changes have been made.

FGT filed with the FERC for its Phase IV expansion in late 1998 and is awaiting a draft environmental impact statement that is expected "any day now" (see NGI Oct. 5, Dec. 7, 1998). Phase IV construction is slated to begin this spring, and in-service is planned for May 2001. The project, which includes 139 miles of pipe and additional compression is expected to cost about $268 million. Customers signed up are Florida Power Corp., TECO Peoples Gas, Kissimmee Utility Authority, Florida Municipal Power Agency, Georgia Pacific Corp., and National Gypsum. The expansion/extension would run from Tampa to Fort Myers, an area that's not targeted by Buccaneer or Gulfstream.

FGT has finalized negotiations for its Phase V expansion to serve Florida Power & Light (FPL) and Gulf Power. Phase V, expected to add between 375 and 400 MMcf/d of capacity, would serve FPL's Sanford Plant in Volusia County, FL, and Gulf Power's Lansing Smith plant in Panama City, FL, said FGT spokeswoman Gina Taylor. A filing for Phase V is expected at the beginning of December, and in-service is planned for this spring (see NGI March 29). Taylor said the pipeline is finalizing agreements with five other shippers in addition to FPL and Gulf Power. The others include power generation, LDC and industrial loads.

Backers of the three greenfield projects surely will have to wrangle with landowners over pipeline routes. However, they could very well avoid the NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) type of resistance other projects have faced. Environment- and tourist-conscious Floridians have a taste for clean-burning gas. "Environmentalists would welcome natural gas coming into the Tampa Bay area because TECO [Tampa Electric Co.] and Florida Power and Light need to convert to natural gas," said environmentalist Gloria Rains, chair of Florida environmental health group Manasota-88 (see NGI June 28).

Joe Fisher, Houston

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