WHAT IS NORTHEAST ENERGY DIRECT?
Northeast Energy Direct is a large pipeline expansion project being proposed by Kinder Morgan Energy’s subsidiary, Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. It includes the large new natural gas transmission line that, earlier, had been referred to as the Northeast Expansion, which would include new looping along the 200 line from a gas hub in Wright NY to Hancock, MA, then a new path from Hancock north and eastward to Northfield, MA, across southern NH, to a hub in Dracut, MA. The larger project also includes new pipeline from TGP’s 300 line in Pennsylvania, up through Susquehanna Co. and into NY state to the hub in Wright, providing a direct path from the fracking fields of PA to the gas hub in eastern MA and the connecting Maritimes and Northeast pipeline in Maine.
» See documents filed with FERC describing this proposal
The TGP Northeast Energy Direct pipeline is proposed to be a 30″ inch high-pressure natural gas transmission line. With it’s PA to NY leg (called the “Supply Path”) and NY to MA leg (called the “Market Path”), it would be bringing gas directly from the fracking fields of PA through to the eastern hub in Dracut MA, with a direct connection to the Maritimes & Northeast pipeline in ME. The M&NE pipeline has recently applied for a permit to reverse direction, bringing gas up to export facilities in the Canadian Maritimes. According to their company’s memo, intended customers are local distribution companies, electric generators,industrial end users and developers of liquefied natural gas (“LNG”) export projects in New England and Atlantic Canada.
This proposed path would run through some of the states’ most sensitive eco-systems including conservation lands, wildlife reserves, state parks as well as farmland, towns and even crossing over or under the Connecticut River.
This project, aside from causing environmental disruption during the construction phase, would post many hazards if there are leaks, ruptures or explosions – all scenarios that happen regularly on similar high-pressure pipelines throughout the country. A large pipeline that runs at high pressure has a large “impact radius“, in which substantial damage to structures is unavoidable.
Why the pipeline is being opposed:
The proposed pipeline path runs through hundreds of private properties and through some of our region’s most sensitive ecosystems and could be paid for through new tariffs on our electric bills.
We have been researching the need for this pipeline (or lack thereof), environmental and economic impacts and presenting across the state since February and are constantly updating and filling out with new findings.
DEMAND IS NOT WHAT IT SEEMS
Studies commissioned by NESCOE showed that if current levels of state energy efficiency programs continue, there is no need for additional natural gas infrastructure even with economic growth taken into account, yet ISO New England and NESCOE are calling for more pipeline capacity.
The need for more capacity has been cited as peak demand during cold weather when gas for heating and gas for electric generation compete for existing pipeline capacity. These conditions only happen for a few hours a day, about 10-27 days a year, and it has never led to a dip into our electric generation buffer (the extra electric capacity ISO-NE likes to keep on hand), let alone actual electric demand.
One of our pipeline-watchers has also just discovered that ISO New England has been issuing “Minimum Generation Emergency Warnings.” These are times when consumers were using so little electricity that the gird operator had to ask power plants to NOT generate electricity. As we understand it, this happens far, far more often than the times ISO-NE comes close to dipping into the buffer of electric generation during the 10-27 peak usage days per year that occur in winter. A quick look at the ISO-NE calendar shows that this “Minimum Generation Emergency Warning” happens about 10-20 a MONTH – about 12 times more often than the supposed “capacity constraint” that led to the request for more pipelines.
POOR INFRASTRUCTURE MANAGEMENT
Even if there were an actual need, there are currently enough leaks in the existing infrastructure to provide another 400 MW of power. The two most dangerous classes of these leaks are now slated to be fixed under new legislation that has passed, but repairing Class 3 leaks (considered non-dangerous) is not mandatory. We think it should be.
There are also existing pipelines that are standing at least partially unused. Using these to capacity to store gas during non-peak times can keep enough reserve to cover the few days every winter when peak demand drives up prices. This project is not being driven by a shortage of gas supply, just a shortage of cheap gas available to electric generation plants during extremely cold weather when people use more of the gas supply for heat.
OVERSIZED SOLUTION TO PROPOSED “PROBLEM” – LIKELY EXPORT
Even if the Low Demand Scenario was not proven, the amount of additional pipeline capacity requested by NESCOE is 0.6 Billion cubic feet a day (Bcf/d), but the Northeast Energy Direct pipeline project proposed by KM/TGP is being planned for 1.3 Bcf/d.
With nearly four times the capacity called for, where is the other three quarters of that capacity destined? The terminal hub in Dracut is also connection point to the Martimes & Northeast (M&NE) pipeline which has just applied to switch direction, bringing gas from Massachusetts, through Maine to the Maritimes of Canada, where export terminals will soon be coming online. There is also new potential for export from facilities in Maine and Everett, MA.
In selectboard meetings across the state, KM representatives have repeatedly said that they have no control over who their customers are, so exports are on the table. Their own open season bidding memo called from LNG developers and customers in the Maritimes as well as local distribution and electric utilities.
NATURAL GAS POLLUTES MORE THAN EXISTING GRID SOURCES in MA
Looking into the CO2 emissions averaged over all sources of electric generation in MA, the average per source is 910 lb. per MWh. The average natural gas generation plant is 1,210 lb. per MWh. Natural gas has done it’s “bridge” work. With renewables phasing in at an unprecedented rate, adding more natural gas would now take is in the wrong direction for achieving the state’s greenhouse gas emissions goals – based on CO2 output alone.
Natural gas is also primarily methane, a greenhouse gas over 86 times more powerful than CO2. When a full accounting of methane’s impact is taken into consideration, studies show that it has no benefit over coal or oil in reducing greenhouse gas effects.
Natural gas is often touted as a “bridge fuel” to a clean energy economy. We are standing at the far end, having crossed that “bridge”. It’s time to step forward into that future we’ve been building.