New York Study Examines Stress on Gas Delivery System

The prospect of a 67.5% increase in gas demand in the state of New York over the next five years has the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) just a little concerned about a potential overload of the gas transportation system in the state.

The two organizations have commissioned a study examining the impact of increased gas demand from 22 proposed new gas or dual fuel power plants, which currently are applying for permits under the state's siting process. The dual fuel plants also may put a strain on the delivery infrastructure for alternative fuels, the organizations noted.

"The one thing we can almost certainly say is not all these plants will be approved," said NYSERDA spokesman Gary Davidson. "Assuming that they were, the total added electric capacity would be around 14,121 MW. That's a net gain. There are some completely new plants proposed and there are some plants that are replacing existing plants. As far as the gas demand that's expected, assuming all 22 were somehow approved, we would be looking at 748 TBtu/year (726 Bcf/year) of additional gas demand. For perspective, that's about 67.5% of the total gas consumption in New York state in 1998, which is the most recent year we have data for."

As a result, the organizations held a competitive bidding process and chose Charles River Associates Inc. to conduct a study. Charles River will develop an integrated computer modeling system of the electric and natural gas infrastructure serving the Northeast. The system will have the capability to assess the operation of the electric and gas systems serving New York under a range of varying conditions and various contingencies that could impact service reliability or energy supplies.

"This study represents an important piece of research to the state as we go about updating the energy plan and evaluating the transition to a competitive market for electricity," said NYSERDA President William M. Flynn. "While natural gas is clearly the fuel of choice for new power plants in terms of providing power with minimal environmental emissions, it is important that we understand what implications the increased use of natural gas has on the reliability of our energy infrastructure, as well as the adequacy and diversity of our fuel supplies."

Some of the factors to be considered by the modeling system include the following: whether adequate supplies of natural gas exist; what happens to the market for petroleum fuels if generating facilities switch from gas for a period of time; can the existing gas infrastructure handle the increased flow to the new power plants; and how does the increased reliance on gas affect the diversity of fuels used to generate power in the state as well as the ability to transition to a more competitive electricity marketplace.

"From super-efficient, combined cycle cogen electric plants, right down to basic fuel cells, natural gas is the premier fuel powering our future. It is affordable, clean burning and found in abundance right here in our own hemisphere," said NYISO CEO William J. Museler. "However, because natural gas has so many attributes, demand for it is increasing significantly. Add to this, the fact that New York State is situated toward the end of most gas transmission pipelines and we could run into a situation where demand begins to outpace supply. This study is intended to assess that risk and provide us with the information we need to effectively manage our fuel supplies long into the future."

The cost of the study is about $738,500, with NYSERDA and NYISO each providing half the funding.

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