As FERC last week was delivering bad news to the Northeast-boundIndependence Pipeline and associated SupplyLink and MarketLinkprojects, the Commission staff was delivering a report to CapitolHill that concluded new pipeline capacity may be needed for theregion within the next three to five years. It didn’t specify howmuch capacity though (See related story).

It believes additional capacity may be required as early as the2003 to 2005 time frame, at which point staff estimates dailyutilization rates for pipelines in the Northeast are expected toincrease to 77.6%. The report said load factors greater than 78% onan annual basis for pipelines in the Northeast quadrant indicate acapacity constraint. The function of Northeast pipelines isdifferent than long-line pipelines from the Gulf or Canada, and asa result the utilization rates are typically much lower (75-78%) inorder to service peak-day loads, according to staff. Based on gasdemand projections by the Energy Information Administration (EIA),FERC staff sees daily utilization rates possibly shooting up to97.3% by 2015 without new capacity into the market.

“Staff believes consideration of reliability, changing customerdemand profiles, a more dynamic and liquid natural gas market, andthe long lead times and high capital costs associated with pipelineconstruction require the use of the peak-growth scenario” for gasdemand and pipeline utilization rates in the Northeast during the2003-2005 period. It converted EIA’s projections for annual gasdemand to a daily demand of 11-12 Bcf/d for the region.

The House Appropriations Committee ordered FERC to do theanalysis, citing concerns with the “proposed MarketLink expansionproject in northern New Jersey.” It directed the Commission toprovide a 20-year outlook for the number of new pipelines thatwould be needed to address future capacity in the state.

Staff told the committee that it was virtually impossible tolimit the scope of the analysis to New Jersey alone. “Given thefact that natural gas markets and the interconnected web ofpipelines serving those markets do not correspond to politicalboundaries, it is difficult, if not impossible, to study the issueof future need for natural gas capacity for a specific state, ifnot region,” it said in a 15-page report

Rather, the Commission staff opted to limit the study to the NewEngland states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts,Connecticut and Rhode Island; and the Mid-Atlantic states of NewYork, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The EIA has estimated currentpipe capacity in the Northeast at 15.3 Bcf/d, and storagewithdrawal capacity at about 3.3 Bcf/d.

Staff warned the lawmakers of the dire consequences of beingcaught with inadequate pipeline capacity. “The costs to consumersand society associated with a lack of capacity to meet demandcannot be rectified in a short period of time due to the long-leadtimes associated with pipeline construction.”

The energy trade associations and other prognosticators havearrived at different projections for the growth in gas demand inthe New England and Mid-Atlantic regions, but they all agree thegrowth will come from electric generation, FERC staff said. Under amaximum scenario, the report has gas demand growing from 3.5Tcf/year in 2000 to 4.3 Tcf in 2005, to 5 Tcf in 2010 and to 5.4Tcf in 2015. The minimum projections see gas rising from 3.1 Tcf in2000 to 3.4 Tcf in 2005, to 3.8 Tcf in 2010 and to 4.2 Tcf by 2015.

In addition to the EIA, FERC staff said it relied on a number ofother studies for its analysis, including ones from the GasResearch Institute (GRI), the Interstate Natural Gas Association ofAmerica (INGAA), Primark EFA (formerly Wharton Econometrics); andCambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA).

“The studies agree that the Northeast market will experiencesignificant growth in demand from current levels under allscenarios tested. The studies also agree that all customer groupswill at least maintain current consumption levels, and most agreethat all customer groups will grow. In addition, [they] agree thatthe electric power generation market will constitute the singlefastest growing segment of the Northeast gas market,” the FERCanalysis said.

Susan Parker

©Copyright 1999 Intelligence Press, Inc. All rightsreserved. The preceding news report may not be republished orredistributed in whole or in part without prior written consent ofIntelligence Press, Inc.