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Dominion Resources and Duke Energy Propose $5B Natural Gas Pipeline

Tue, 09/02/2014 - 9:30am
Jonathan Fahey - AP Energy Writer - Associated Press

Dominion Resources, Duke Energy, and other partners are proposing a $5 billion natural gas pipeline to connect the Southeast with the prodigious supplies of natural gas being produced in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia.

Gas is being relied upon to generate more of the nation's electricity in recent years because enormous new domestic supplies have drastically lowered its price and natural gas burns cleaner than the nation's other most important fuel for electric power, coal.

The 550-mile project, called the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, would begin in Harrison County, West Virginia and stretch through Virginia and North Carolina to Robeson County near the South Carolina border. It is designed to tap the rapidly growing supplies of gas produced in two geologic formations, known as the Marcellus and Utica shales, that are now generating more than a quarter of the nation's natural gas. In the past, the Southeast has received nearly all of its gas from more traditional gas-producing states of Louisiana, Texas, and Oklahoma.

Utilities prefer having diverse sources of fuel to reduce shortages and price spikes that can arise in terms of high demand, such as hot summers or cold winters.

Clean air and clean water regulations — some already approved and some in the process of being finalized — are expected to make burning coal more difficult and expensive in the future. In response, utilities are preparing for increased use of natural gas.

Burning natural gas emits almost none of the toxic chemicals and particulate matter and about half of carbon dioxide that burning coal produces, emissions which some scientists say is responsible for climate change.

Natural gas does have its own environmental drawbacks, however. When the gas leaks or is otherwise released directly into the atmosphere, it heats the planet much faster than carbon dioxide. And the drilling technique that has led to increased U.S. supplies, called fracking, has raised concerns about water use, water contamination, and other issues.

The pipeline is estimated to cost between $4.5 billion and $5 billion to build. It would carry 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. By comparison, the U.S. consumed 71 billion cubic feet of gas per day last year, according to the Energy Department.

The pipeline requires approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The pipeline partners, which include Piedmont Natural Gas and AGL Resources, expect to receive approval by mid-2016 and to start operating the pipeline in 2018.

The pipeline's customers will include six utilities, including Duke Energy subsidiaries, Piedmont Natural Gas, Dominion's Virginia Power and PSNC Energy, which will use the gas to generate electricity and to serve industrial and residential customers who need gas for manufacturing and heating.

Jonathan Fahey can be reached at http://twitter.com/JonathanFahey .

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