Company review sees inadequate capacity in existing gas pipelines
SCHOHARIE COUNTY It sounded like a good idea when federal regulators asked Constitution Pipeline to research whether existing pipelines could be used to transport the gas Constitution Pipeline proposes to deliver in a new, $750 million pipeline construction project.
Doing so, it would seem, would eliminate the controversy over the disruption and environmental impacts of construction.
But after its review, Constitution Pipeline determined there is next to no available capacity for additional gas in these nearby pipelines.
And none of the four natural gas pipelines in or near New York could get the gas to market without hacking up hundreds of miles of additional land and spending millions or hundreds of millions more than Constitution Pipeline’s proposal.
Constitution Pipeline, a joint venture between Williams Partners and Cabot Oil & Gas, is proposing to plant about 120 miles of 30-inch pipe in the ground to bring natural gas from Pennsylvania to a compressor station in the Schoharie County town of Wright.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which is conducting an environmental review of the proposal as part of the agency’s pre-filing review process, posed several questions to Constitution Pipeline in early August.
FERC asked Constitution Pipeline to determine if there’s capacity in existing pipelines to get the gas to the Northeast markets, what it would take to build Constitution’s pipeline in existing pipeline pathways, and what it would cost for other pipeline companies to get the same gas to market,
Constitution Pipeline spokesman Christopher Stockton in an email this week said the company already knows its proposal would play a role in the energy market by making a connection that doesn’t exist.
“Constitution would be unique in that it would create a ‘bridge’ connecting gas supplies in northern and central Pennsylvania to the interstate transmission system that serves northern New York and Boston,” he said.
“It basically gives these markets access, like a highway access road, to supplies that they couldn’t otherwise tap.”
In its response submitted to FERC, Constitution Pipeline outlined what appear to be difficult and more-expensive alternatives in the event any other pipeline company were to propose to serve the Northeast markets.
Constitution Pipeline already anticipates sufficient product demand to pump 650,000 dekatherms per day through the new line it’s proposing, enough to feed roughly 3 million homes.
Engineers researched the amount of capacity available on natural gas pipelines operated by Millennium, Tennessee Gas, Dominion Transmission and Transcontinental.
Only one of these pipelines, Millennium, has room for more gas — a capacity amounting to about 642,500 dekatherms less than Constitution Pipeline is prepared to deliver if the project is approved. The 7,500 dekatherms would be about enough to feed 35,000 homes.
There is no room on the Tennessee Gas Pipeline. The company owns two major lines, one called the 300 that runs through Pennsylvania and another in New York, the 200 line. The 200 line travels through the middle of the state, traversing beneath Otsego County and northern Schoharie County before arriving at the compressor station in Wright.
There’s also no room on the Transcontinental Pipeline, which travels solely in Pennsylvania, according to Constitution Pipeline.
Dominion pipeline, which runs in a northeasterly direction from central Pennsylvania and travels through central Montgomery and northern Schoharie counties, had 334 dekatherms available daily when Constitution Pipeline inquired, but Constitution learned that capacity has already been purchased and is no longer available.
Millennium Pipeline, which runs along the southern edge of New York state from Allegany to Rockland counties, has room for about 7,500 dekatherms of gas in one section, and that part of the pipeline is about 74 miles from Constitution Pipeline’s delivery area in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania.
The company was also asked to investigate whether the Constitution Pipeline could be planted alongside other pipeline corridors and still get gas to Wright. Only the Tennessee Gas Pipeline’s 200 and 300 lines could serve that purpose, according to Constitution Pipeline.
But doing so would require three times as much pipeline construction and the land disturbance and environmental impacts that would go with it: about 360 miles of pipe compared with the 120 miles Constitution is proposing.
It would also require a total of two compressor stations be built instead of the single station proposed in the project under consideration.
And it would cost approximately $2.1 billion to plant the Constitution Pipeline’s 30-inch-diameter pipe along the Tennessee Gas Pipeline’s path.
FERC also asked Constitution Pipeline to estimate what it might cost were the other existing pipelines to build out in order to handle Constitution Pipeline’s 650,000 daily dekatherms.
Though not privy to internal operations data and design criteria of other pipeline companies, Constitution Pipeline estimates it would be more expensive were any of them to consider it, compared with the estimated $748 million project it is proposing.
Constitution estimates Millennium Pipeline would have to spend as much as $930 million to get gas to the compressor station in Wright. Such a project would entail about 152 miles of 30-inch pipeline, both to transport gas and to accommodate additional compression and connection facilities.
It would cost roughly $1.2 billion for Dominion Transmission to do it, requiring roughly 182 miles of 30-inch pipe, in addition to more compression and interconnection facilities, according to Constitution Pipeline.
Tennessee Gas would have to spend as much as $1.75 billion to build enough infrastructure to handle all the gas, requiring as many as 260 miles of 30-inch pipeline to accommodate it.
And a Transcontinental Gas expansion to serve Constitution Pipeline’s delivery goals would cost as much as $1.68 billion, requiring the use of as many as 267 miles of 30-inch pipe, according to Constitution Pipeline’s estimates.
As part of its review, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is holding a public meeting on the Constitution Pipeline proposal on Tuesday, Sept. 25, to hear comments from the public. The meeting will be held from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Schoharie School, at 136 Academy Drive in Schoharie. Constitution Pipeline representatives are expected to be on hand to answer questions at 6 p.m. that day.
Constitution Pipeline is expecting to file a formal application for the project early next year.