New England energy sector stakeholders stressed the importance of natural gas to the region’s energy security on Thursday at an event organized by FERC.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission convened the forum to seek input on the region’s winter supply challenges. Primarily because of pipeline constraints, New England relies on LNG imports to cover increased natural gas demand during the winter months.

Kinder Morgan Inc.’s Kimberly Watson, president of interstate gas pipelines, implored regulators to support the buildout of new infrastructure to both reduce dependence on imported liquefied natural gas while continuing to curb greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

“I urge the commission to take steps to act now to promote an efficient, predictable and consistent review of certificate applications for new pipeline infrastructure,” Watson said. 

She added, “A transition to predominantly renewable fuels backstopped by batteries will take years to decades, whereas natural gas can serve as both a foundational fuel and a complement to renewables now, ensuring reliability of service with a low-carbon intensity for years to come.

“The bottom line is that we need new pipeline infrastructure both now and well into our future…”

Watson also serves as board chair of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA). 

The trade group explained that on the coldest days of the year, New England gas shippers with firm pipeline capacity, namely local distribution companies (LDCs), “use all their gas to keep their customers’ homes warm, leaving non-firm customers scrambling to find fuel and paying significant premiums if they do.”

Pipeline bottlenecks also could hinder decarbonization efforts, INGAA warned.

“Additional infrastructure will provide added capacity and enable New England’s clean energy transition without sacrificing reliability, prices or higher GHG emissions as the region turns to coal or fuel oil to try to keep the lights on,” the group said. 

[Attacks on U.S. Utilities: What could the recent attacks on utilities in Washington, Oregon and North Carolina mean for the energy market and the natural gas industry? Tune in to NGI’s Hub & Flow to learn more.]

LNG Still Needed

Natural gas lobbyists were not alone in stressing the fuel’s importance to the Northeast.

Regional transmission organization ISO New England Inc.’s Stephen George, director of operational performance, training and integration, told the forum that over the past 10 winters (December to February), the region has averaged about 31.7 Bcf of LNG usage.

ISO New England has stressed the “critical importance” of Constellation Energy Corp.’s Everett, MA, LNG import facility in meeting New England’s winter energy needs. 

The Everett Facility, along with Repsol SA’s Saint John terminal in New Brunswick, Canada, and Excelerate Energy Inc.’s Northeast Gateway floating terminal off Massachusetts, supply imported LNG to New England.

George cited New England’s vast renewable energy potential, highlighting the prospects for large-scale offshore wind power and hydropower imports from Quebec. 

However, he said, in order to balance the grid, New England would continue to depend on natural gas and other stored fuels until the region develops clean, long-duration energy sources. 

He added that New England must ensure it retains enough existing infrastructure, as well as stabilize its fuel supply chains, “until clean energy is available in sufficient quantities.”

Also speaking at the forum was Enbridge Inc.’s Richard Paglia, vice president of marketing and business development.

Enbridge operates the Texas Eastern Transmission and Algonquin Gas Transmission pipelines, two of New England’s principal gas supply sources. 

Paglia said the three LNG terminals that supply New England, while vital, must be complemented by new infrastructure. 

“Do I think a greenfield pipeline will be built into this region? No, I don’t,” Paglia said, “and I don’t think it’s necessary quite frankly.”

Instead, he said, brownfield projects within existing pipeline corridors could be a more feasible option. These could include “lift and replace” projects to swap out existing pipes for larger diameter ones, expansions of compression capacity and satellite liquefaction projects. 

This is “all executable, if there’s alignment across the regulator, policy and the communities that we’d be doing that in.”