Aging pipeline infrastructure will need to be replaced and/or upgraded to support the nation’s transition to heavier reliance on natural gas, FERC Commissioner John Norris said Tuesday.

A lot of the country’s existing pipe infrastructure “is eligible for membership in AARP [American Association of Retired Persons],” he told energy executives, trade association officials and regulators at the Natural Gas Roundtable in Washington, DC. He believes the success of the country’s move to natural gas will depend on when the infrastructure is modernized.

Since joining the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Norris said he has spent some of his time visiting the nation’s energy facilities. “The general public has no clue about the extent of the size and the cost of our energy infrastructure.”

Norris said he met with eight CEOs of major energy companies last August, and seven of them indicated that they saw natural gas as the wave of the future.

In Washington, “no matter where I look in the energy debate with regards to electricity or with regards to carbon policy it seems like it all comes back around to gas,” he said. “Gas finds itself [at] the center of that conversation…You are central to our nation’s energy future,” he told the roundtable attendees.

Norris said he believes that the future of energy will largely be driven by economics and technology, such as hydraulic fracturing, that “has given us access to a whole new supply” of gas — shale natural gas.

Norris said liquefied natural gas (LNG) continues to be an “important resource for our country,” even though some import facilities are seeking FERC authorization to export LNG due to the onslaught of shale gas.

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