Why Pipelines Aren’t Needed

There are many reasons why additional pipeline infrastructure and increased natural gas capacity of any kind isn’t needed for New England and the Northeastern US.

» New England’s Shrinking Need for Natural Gas
Synapse Energy Economics, Inc – February 7, 2017

» Power System Reliability in New England Meeting Electric Resource Needs in an Era of Growing Dependence on Natural Gas
Analysis Group, Inc. on behalf of the MA Atty. General’s Office – November 18, 2015

Why New Pipelines and Gas Infrastructure are the Wrong Direction for Massachusetts:

2013 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.

Even an article published by industry sources on August 4, 2016 explore the idea that all proposed pipelines put together equal more than the output capacity of the Marcellus shale play.

In Massachusetts, 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 alarming document from ISO-NewEngland was the Winter Reliability Program for 2013-2014. ISO-NE offered incentives to oil burning electric generation plants to purchase extra fuel ahead of the winter peak to cover the few peak demand days, when the need to generate was especially high. But they refused to do the same for natural gas powered plants, leaving them with no reserves for peak demand hours when electric and heating demands were both high. On page 7, paragraph 3 of this report, they stated the following:
“a solution that provided incentives to natural gas suppliers or generators to ensure incremental gas supply would affect wholesale electricity prices … For example, if an ISO solution reduced the opportunity costs priced into the gas market during a time of high gas  demand, this would lower gas prices and send the wrong signal about the relative scarcity of natural gas. These lower prices would also be reflected in the electricity market.”

This past winter, 2014-2015, ISO-NE caved to criticism and pressure and allowed the same incentives for gas-powered electric generation plants. The results? The “crisis” cause by capacity constraints during peak demand didn’t happen – at all.
» See Conservation Law Foundation’s analysis of the effects of this simple change in policy

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 ISO and NESCOE’s request for more pipelines.

» Read more about ISO New England’s recent policies affecting capacity forecasts and peak demand response

» Natural gas isn’t a cleaner alternative to coal
By Meghan Foley, Keene Sentinel Staff
Saturday, August 13, 2016

The proposed pipeline path runs through over a thousand private and public properties, including through some of the state’s most sensitive eco-systems and lands set aside for conservation.  Article 97 of the Massachusetts State Constitution was put in place to protect these lands in perpetuity.  However, if 2/3 of the legislature can grants permission, it can allow other uses.  Having over 1/3 of the Legislature standing solidly against such removed from protection will be crucial.  Even with support from the Legislature, FERC can still override that ruling, but it would then be against the will of the State.

The new route is cited as “utility co-location”, but not all of it is contained within current utility corridors.  In most places along the path from Wright to Dracut, the pipeline is slated to run alongside existing cleared easements, requiring further deforestation and impact on public and private lands.

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.

» Inefficiencies in the grid are a problem nationwide.

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 2.2 Bcf/d.
» Learn more about energy unit definitions

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 two ports have just applied to switch from import to export. 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.

» Article: Unchecked Exports Could Lead to 3X Increase in Natural Gas Prices

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 in the first 20 years that it hits the atmosphere, 34 times more over a 100 year period. When a full accounting of methane’s impact is taken into account from drill site to burner tip, studies show that it has no benefit over coal or oil in reducing greenhouse gas effects.  A new study estimates that enough gas is leaked in the process of extraction and transport to negate any climate benefits to its lower CO2 output when burned.

» Scientific article on methane emissions
February 11, 2015

» New report estimates enough natural gas is leaking to negate climate benefits
Peter Moskowitz, The Guardian, June 24, 2015

Investing billions into fossil fuel infrastructure commits our region to their increased and continuing use for decades.  We are standing at the far end, having crossed the natural gas “bridge” to a clean energy economy.  It’s time to step forward into that future we’ve been building.

With shale gas wells lasting far shorter than expected and increased concern that the gas market bubble may be about to burst, is this where we want to invest billions of dollars while sacrificing the some of the most valued lands in our state?

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Conservation Law Foundation’s Comments to NESCOE,
May 30 2014

Environment Northeast: Pipeline Alternatives Assessment,
May  2014

Hartford Courant
Report: New England Could Ease Its Hunger For Gas, Avoid Cost Of Pipeline
By Brian Dowling
May 29, 2014

Questioning the need for Northeast Energy Direct*,
From Dracut/Tyngsboro Pipeline Awareness Group,
May 29, 2014

Enron-Style Price Gouging is Making a Comeback: Wall Street Makes Naked Attempt to Jack Up Electricity Prices in New England
David Cay Johnson, Al Jazeera America
May 2, 2014