Hebert: CA Interstate, Intrastate Capacity Gap Widens

In his latest review of the California market, FERC Chairman Curt Hebert said that while the levels of interstate natural gas pipeline capacity and intrastate capacity serving the state have risen since the start of the year, the gap between the two has grown even wider and could serve to further constrain delivery points there.

Hebert kicked off last Wednesday's regular Commission meeting with his second assessment of the pipeline-capacity situation in California, reporting that about 755 MMcf/d of interstate pipeline capacity and 585 MMcf/d of in-state capacity have been added to serve California since early January.

This now brings the total California-bound interstate capacity to 6,905 MMcf/d, which exceeds the level of in-state pipe capacity (6,115 MMcf/d) by 790 MMcf/d. These latest figures are based on information that FERC received during its May 24 conference on the state's energy markets, a staff member said.

Two weeks ago, Hebert reported that the level of interstate pipeline capacity to California was at 6,150 MMcf/d, which was 620 MMcf/d more than the state's estimated takeaway capacity of 5,530 MMcf/d. The figures were based on information on hand at FERC in January, he said (see NGI, July 16).

"So while both the incoming and takeaway capacities have increased, and that is positive, the gap has widened from 620 MMcf/d to 790, which is negative," said Hebert. "We certainly need to continue to work with California, and aid and assist anyway we can to make certain that they're adding the appropriate ability to move gas."

At the chairman's direction, FERC staff sent a letter to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) asking for "identification and description of planned and...completed projects" for takeaway pipeline capacity. The state agency sent an e-mail to the Commission Tuesday, requesting a "few more days" to respond, a FERC staff member said.

Until the disparity between interstate and in-state pipe capacity is reduced or disappears, Commissioner Linda Breathitt has suggested that maybe FERC should think twice before it authorizes more interstate pipeline expansions to serve California. She believes that "uncoordinated interstate pipeline expansions could serve to exacerbate congestion at California delivery points and result in higher prices for consumers" in the state (see NGI, July 23).

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