FERC clears big Florida gas pipeline project through the enviro review process

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Dec. 18 released a final environmental impact statement covering the potential environmental impacts that could result from constructing and operating three separate, but related, interstate natural gas transmission pipelines and associated facilities proposed by Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. LLC; Sabal Trail Transmission LLC; and Florida Southeast Connection LLC (FSC).

Transco proposes to construct and operate the Hillabee Expansion Project; Sabal Trail proposes to construct and operate the Sabal Trail Project; and FSC proposes to construct and operate the FSC Project. Throughout this EIS these three companies are collectively referred to as the Applicants, and the three projects are collectively referred to as the Southeast Market Pipelines Project (SMP Project).

In September 2014, FSC filed an application with the FERC for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity to construct, own, and operate a natural gas pipeline and related facilities, and a Blanket Certificate for limited future activities and services on the new facilities. The FSC Project would involve constructing and operating 77.1 miles of 36-inch-diameter pipeline; 49.2 miles of 30-inch-diameter pipeline; and mainline valves (MLVs), pig launchers and receivers, meter and regulating (M&R) stations, and appurtenant facilities in Florida.

Construction would occur in one phase between 2016 and 2017. The FSC Project would connect with the Sabal Trail Project at the Central Florida Hub (CFH) and would have an initial capacity of up to 640 million cubic feet per day (MMcfd).

In November 2014, Transco filed an application with the FERC for a certificate to construct and operate about 43.5 miles of natural gas transmission pipeline and associated facilities in Alabama, and to abandon by lease the capacity created by the construction of these facilities. The Hillabee Expansion Project would involve construction and operation of about 43.5 miles of pipeline loop in eight segments; one new natural gas fired-compressor station; modifications at three existing compressor stations; and MLVs, pig launchers and receivers, and appurtenant facilities.

Transco’s facilities would be constructed in three phases between 2016 and 2021 and would provide the Sabal Trail Project with up to 1.1 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) of natural gas capacity upon completion.

In November 2014, Sabal Trail filed an application with the FERC seeking a certificate to construct, own, and operate a natural gas pipeline and related facilities, and to lease the natural gas capacity that would be created by the Hillabee Expansion Project. Sabal Trail also requests a Blanket Certificate for limited future activities and services on the new facilities. The Sabal Trail Project would involve construction and operation of about 481.6 miles of 36-inch-diameter Mainline pipeline in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida; 13.1 miles of 36-inch-diameter lateral pipeline (the Hunters Creek Line (HCL)) and 21.5 miles of 24-inch-diameter lateral pipeline (the Citrus County Line (CCL)) in Florida; five new natural gas-fired compressor stations; and MLVs, pig launchers and receivers, M&R stations, and appurtenant facilities. Sabal Trail would also construct and operate the CFH at the termination of the Mainline pipeline in Osceola County, Florida.

Sabal Trail’s facilities would be constructed in three phases between 2016 and 2021, with the second and third phases involving only additional compression facilities. The Sabal Trail Project would have a design capacity of up to 1.1 Bcf/d upon completion.

Sabal Trail is a joint venture between affiliates of Spectra Energy Partners LP, NextEra Energy (NYSE: NEE), and Duke Energy Florida. FSC is a subsidiary of NextEra.

FERC concluded that constructing and operating the SMP Project would result in temporary and permanent impacts on the environment. It also concluded that with the applicants’ implementation of their respective impact avoidance, minimization, and mitigation measures as well as their adherence to FERC recommendations to further avoid, minimize, and mitigate these impacts, the SMP Project would not result in a significant impact on the environment.

FERC noted that the Florida Public Service Commission (FPSC) requires electric utility companies with a minimum existing electric generating capacity of 250 MW to conduct long range planning to ensure that future electric generation needs are met. This requirement applies to 11 investor-owned, municipal, or rural electric cooperative utilities, including the the Florida Power & Light subsidiary of NextEra Energy. After a public review and approval process, the FPSC concluded that increased gas transportation infrastructure was needed to meet FPL’s future electric generating needs, and authorized FPL to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the new natural gas transportation capacity.

The RFP was issued in December 2012 and invited proposals to construct and operate a new, onshore natural gas transmission pipeline that would originate near Transco’s Compressor Station 85 in Choctaw County, Alabama, and extend to FPL’s existing Martin Clean Energy generating plant in Martin County, Florida. The Compressor Station 85 area was identified as the project receipt point because Transco’s system interconnects with other interstate transmission systems operated by Midcontinent Express Pipeline LLC and Gulf South Pipeline Co. LP at Compressor Station 85, providing shippers with access to multiple, diverse, onshore and offshore natural gas supply areas.

The RFP further indicated a preference that the new pipeline system be geographically separate from existing interstate pipeline systems that currently serve Florida. FPL evaluated four proposals and selected the applicants to provide the requested transportation capacity. FPL filed its evaluation results with the FPSC and the FPSC agreed that the applicants’ proposals were the most cost-effective. The applicants have since entered into long-term precedent agreements with two shippers, FPL and Duke Energy Florida (DEF) for 93% of the SMP Project capacity upon full build-out. To meet shipper requirements, transportation service would begin in May 2017 and increase through 2021 through phased compression additions.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.