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ISO-New England 'Jealous' of Pipe Expansions in Other Regions

While New England is taking a fuel-neutral approach, it needs to have additional gas infrastructure, said Peter Brandien, vice president of system operations for ISO-New England.

Citing the buildout of natural gas pipeline capacity in the past year and the greater cooperation and coordination between the gas and electric markets, regional transmission organizations (RTOs) and independent system operators (ISO) Thursday told FERC that gas-fired power generators are better prepared this year for the winter heating season, which begins in less than three weeks.

Three projects would provide an additional 1 Bcf/d of Marcellus Shale gas to the New York City area by Nov. 1: Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line's Northeast Expansion Project, Spectra Energy's New Jersey-New York Expansion (see Daily GPI, Oct. 8) and Tennessee Gas Pipeline's Northeast Upgrade Project (see Daily GPI, Sept. 27). This is a "very positive story," said Wes Yeomans, vice president of operations for the New York-ISO, during the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) regular monthly meeting.

Gary Helm of the PJM agrees that the new infrastructure being built in Pennsylvania, Ohio and New Jersey is "definitely beneficial" in getting shale gas to the PJM and Midcontinent ISO markets, as well as pipeline modernization programs that are replacing 1950s-style compressors.

But pipeline capacity in the New England market is expected to remain constrained. "I'm in a constrained area. I get jealous about these guys talking about their [pipeline] expansions," said Peter Brandien, vice president of system operations for ISO-New England.

While New England is taking the approach that the region is fuel neutral, "I believe that the solution needs to have additional gas infrastructure," he responded to a question from FERC Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur.

As the country heads into winter, Brandien said ISO-New England's forecast department has projected a normal winter for the region with a few cold spells, which is par for the course. FERC staff on Thursday said moderate natural gas and power prices, adequate gas storage inventories and growing natural gas production are all positive signs as colder weather approaches.

During this past summer, there were few coordination problems reported by pipelines and generators. Yeomans noted that their performance was "excellent" during the heat wave in New York in late July, when the peak load hit an all-time high of 33,956 MW.

Don Shipley, director of operations for the Southwest Power Pool (SPP), told the Commission that SPP experienced no gas-electric coordination issues this summer. However, he noted that SPP has begun discussions about winter protocols with two pipelines serving its area, and said it plans to reach out to a third provider, Enogex, before the start of winter.

Brad Bouillon, director of the day-ahead market, said the California ISO's communications with gas pipelines have increased significantly. Gas companies contact the ISO if they have critical work going on, and "we receive OFOs [operational flow orders] from all of the gas pipelines now."

According to Todd Ramey, vice president of operations for the Midcontinent ISO (MISO), an ongoing study is showing that shale gas is altering flow patterns in the region. "Historically, gas came from the West of the [MISO] footprint and south of the footprint. Some of it stopped over and stayed in the Midwest, but most of it was moving on to load centers in the East United States and Canada," he noted.

"Shale gas is changing those flow patterns quite a bit and is making the Midwest much more of a central hub for natural gas, and that has the fortunate side effect" for MISO of improving customer access to gas.

Several RTOs indicated that they have hired full-time consultants to monitor the availability of natural gas for power generators on their system. Specifically, ISO-New England noted that it is trying to understand Canadian-based production areas and Sable Island better.

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