‘Open season’ filed to gauge natural gas market

For the Gazette
Published: 6/25/2017 11:17:58 PM

One year after announcing plans to scrap its proposed Northeast Energy Direct pipeline through Western Massachusetts, Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. is looking again at the possibility of building a new natural gas pipeline across New York and New England.

An “open season” filing by the Kinder Morgan subsidiary — seeking bids from gas distribution companies and other customers for a new pipeline in the region — that is due to expire June 30, is raising concerns from those who successfully fought back the $5 billion project across eight Franklin County towns.

While the Houston-based pipeline company specifies no route for a new pipeline delivering gas from its “200 line” across Massachusetts’ southern tier or at Dracut in Middlesex County — and doesn’t even specify whether it is proposing a new pipeline or whether it would somehow make additional gas capacity available — it says it will continue to reserve gas capacity “for development of a future expansion project(s) in the Northeast.”

Kinder Morgan spokesman Richard K. Wheatley said, “The company is working to address the needs of local distribution companies that are unable to fully serve their customers. The TGP open season will ultimately determine the level of customer interest for any additional gas service.”

He declined to describe the perceived growth in demand in natural gas since last year’s announcement that Kinder Morgan was suspending work on the Northeast Energy Direct project “as a result of inadequate capacity commitments from prospective customers.”

One of the chief arguments that had been made by critics of NED was that there was no need for its proposed 1.2 billion cubic feet a day capacity for natural gas.

A Berkshire Gas spokesman told The Recorder, “Whenever there is an open season, the company considers participating as part of the normal course of resource planning. We will be able to disclose what we decided to do in this open season once it has concluded at the end of this month.”

Unlike its February 2014 open season filing, TGP has included few details by which it would expand its system, no detailed maps or specifications, but simply mentions existing connections to eastern Massachusetts from the west and capacity connection to the Maritimes and Northeast pipeline, as well as the possibility of additional compression and new pipeline.

Pipeline opponent Rosemary Wessel of Cummington offers conjecture on her No Fracked Gas in Mass website that could explain the timing of the company’s new offer, “though there currently don’t appear to be directly connecting contracts or communications at this time.”

These include the continued moratorium by Berkshire Gas on any new or expanded customer hookups in Franklin and Hampshire counties, claiming its system is constrained. Meanwhile, Liberty Utilities in New Hampshire is planning on converting Keene’s “air propane” system, fed by truck deliveries, to natural gas, and Vernon, Vermont, is looking at small-scale gas-fired generation, along with a variety of other energy sources — for the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant site once it is decommissioned.

And one day after TGP’s filing, Wessel said, the Pieridae Export Terminal in Nova Scotia renewed its bid for a Goldboro terminal to export liquefied natural gas.

Kathryn Eiseman, director of Massachusetts PipeLine Awareness Network and president of Pipeline Awareness Network for the Northeast, said it’s conceivable that TGP could simply be looking at increasing its flow of natural gas without adding new pipeline. Or, it could seek to build multiple compressor stations and build a new pipeline somewhere.

But Eiseman added, “I’d be really surprised if this didn’t amount to some basic infrastructure they would like to do. …

“They’re going to keep us guessing as long as they can.”




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