Pipeline expansion has enabled growth of shale gas, official says

About 10,500 miles of interstate natural gas pipeline has been added in the United States between January 2004 and August 2014, according to Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA) President and CEO Donald Santa.

This dramatic pipeline expansion is one reason that the national economy and the electricity sector have been able to reap the benefits of increased natural gas production from shale, Santa said. The INGAA official made his remarks to the 11th annual State of the Energy Industry Forum sponsored by the U.S. Energy Association Jan. 21 in Washington, D.C.

The total “midstream” investment in natural gas, natural gas liquids and oil in the United States and Canada between now and 2035 is forecast to range anywhere from $465bn to $640bn, Santa said.

Santa said his industry is concerned about public pushback toward natural gas pipelines. So far, however, natural gas lines have not experienced the “politicized” climate of the Keystone XL oil pipeline debate, he said.

Keystone is unique in that the Canada-U.S. project requires a presidential permit, Santa noted. Natural gas pipelines, however, enjoy a well-defined approval process through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

The INGAA trade group is also keeping an eye on H.R. 161, the Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act. The bill “exempts pipelines from the timelines established in the underlying legislation if the pipeline passes through lands required under Federal, State, or local law to be managed for purposes of natural resource conservation or recreation,” according to a summary of the proposal.

Santa said the pipeline permitting bill passed the House during the last session of congress and he hopes that it will be taken up by the Senate this year.

The association is also monitoring the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed efforts to control methane emissions from natural gas pipelines.

Safety continues to be of paramount concern for gas pipelines, Santa said. In addition to complying with government safety requirements, the industry has taken a number of voluntary steps to enhance safety following the 2010 San Bruno natural gas pipeline explosion in California.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.