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Cold Burst Sets Gas, Power Usage, Pipeline Delivery Records

Blasts of frigid cold that have roared across the country over the last few weeks culminated in new natural gas and electric usage records across the country, including in Con Edison's New York City centralized service area and a new peak-day delivery record on Williams' 10,500-mile Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line (Transco), which runs from South Texas to New York.

On Sunday, Jan. 3, Con Edison set all-time daily and hourly records for natural gas use by residential and business customers. The company delivered 967,908 Dth of gas to its distribution customers, and a new hourly record at 11 a.m. EST by delivering 45,953 Dth through the distribution system. These broke the previous highest daily delivery of 957,879 Dth on Dec. 29, 2009, and the previous highest hourly delivery of 45,505 Dth on Jan. 17, 2000 at 9 a.m.

In addition, when including the delivery of natural gas to electric and steam generation facilities, the company established a new daily delivery record of 1.3 million Dth on Dec. 29, 2009.

Con Edison also set a new Sunday winter electric peak record at 7 p.m., delivering 7,951 MW, breaking the previous Sunday winter peak of 7,774 MW on Jan. 23, 2005 at 7 p.m.

The overall electricity peak for the utility was set last summer when the company delivered 12,083 MW at 5 p.m. EDT on Aug. 20, 2009. It was the third time a record was made over the course of only 10 days.

Con Edison maintains approximately 94,000 miles of underground electric cable and 34,000 miles of overhead cable. The utility distributes gas to 1.1 million customers in Manhattan, the Bronx and Queens, as well as Westchester County with 4,300 miles of gas mains and 377,000 service pipes transporting an average of about 225 Bcf a year.

Transco charted a new peak-day delivery record of 9.25 million Dth Jan. 3. And the pipeline last week appeared to be heading for another record as forecasts last Friday were calling for lower temperatures than the previous weekend, a spokesman told NGI.

"It's possible we could set another record this week...it normally takes about a day or so for us to get all that information. If it happens this weekend we would know early next week," spokesman Chris Stockton said last Friday.

Lows in the New York City area were predicted by the National Weather Service to be 22 degrees Fahrenheit Friday night and 15 degrees Saturday night, while highs Saturday and Sunday were expected to be in the high-20s. At the other end of the Transco system, lows in the Houston area were expected to be 20 degrees Friday night and 22 degrees Saturday night, with highs in the low- to mid-40s Saturday and Sunday.

Additionally, New York-based interstate Millennium Pipeline LLC said Friday its one-year-old line set a new peak-day record of 714,700 Dth on Monday (Jan. 4). Gas carried by Millennium is sourced from western New York production and storage fields as well as interconnects with pipelines carrying gas from the Marcellus Shale as well as Canada.

The record-breaking deliveries on Transco Jan. 3 surpassed the previous high of 8.91 million Dth, which was established on Feb. 5, 2009. The record volume represents enough gas to serve more than 40 million U.S. homes on an average day, Williams said. The company also established a new three-day delivery last Saturday through last Monday (Jan. 2-4), averaging 9 million Dth/d.

"This was a tremendous team effort that allowed us to quickly respond to our customers' needs," said Phil Wright, president of Williams' natural gas pipeline business. "The majority of our market area experienced colder-than-normal temperatures, and our employees did a great job of responding to significant increases in demand."

Five years ago Transco set throughput records Jan. 17 through Jan. 19, 2005 on the strength of a cold snap. The pipeline's throughput averaged 8.3 million Dth/d (see NGI, Jan. 31, 2005).

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