Jul 302014

The proposed Northeast Energy Direct pipeline moved a couple large steps forward today, when Kinder Morgan issued a news release saying that it has signed contracts with many New England natural gas distribution companies for the gas that would flow through the company’s pipeline. The proposed 36″ pipeline runs from a distribution terminal in upstate New York through 45 Massachusetts towns to another terminal in Dracut, Massachusetts. Groton and neighboring towns — Pepperell, Dunstable, and Tyngsboro, are on the tentative route.

Although not stressed in the release, Richard Wheatley, Kinder Morgan’s Director of Communications and Public Affairs, confirmed that his company would submit “pre-filing” documents to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in September. This is an optional step in negotiating Federal approval to construct the pipeline. Kinder Morgan spokesmen had not previously said that the filing would definitely take place. If the company makes that deadline and meets other regulatory requirements, and construction stays on schedule, the pipeline could begin transporting natural gas in November, 2018.

These announcements come on the heels of another news release issued Monday, from New Jersey based engineering firm Hatch Mott MacDonald, stating that it has been selected by Kinder Morgan “to lead a regional team that will provide engineering, design and permitting services” for the project from its Holyoke and Westwood Massachusetts offices.

Closer to home, in Groton, John Giger and Selectmen Peter Cunningham and Jack Petropoulos told the Board of Selectmen Monday evening that its advisory committee on the project, the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Working Group, met for the first time earlier Monday. John Giger, the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District representative, was elected chair and Pete Morrison, the Conservation Commission representative, was elected vice-chair. Other members of the committee include: Board of Selectmen representatives Jack Petropoulos and Peter Cunningham; Groton Electric Light Commission, Kevin Kelly; Citizens at-large Dennis Eklof and John Llodra (Secretary), Town Manager Mark Haddad.

The group also has several non-voting advisors: Takashi Tada, the town’s Conservation Asministrator an alternate member from Conservation Commission, the Groton Fire Chief, a yet-to-be-named person from the Historical Commission, and Fran Stanley, who is recording secretary.

The working group is charged with meeting periodically to monitor how the pipeline project proceeds through the regulatory and construction phases, advise the selectmen on strategies the town may employ and implement the strategies, keep in touch with state and federal elected officials, and keep the public informed of the committee’s activities about the pipeline project’s progress. The first report is due to the selectmen by the end of August.

Kelly was not at all surprised that the pipeline was “subscribed” by potential customers — he has been saying the need for more natural gas in New England, both for heating and fueling electrical generation plants has been both growing and obvious for several years.

“So all these people who have saying: ‘There’s no need! There’s no need,'” have been proven wrong by the marketplace, he said.

According to the Kinder Morgan news release, local natural gas supplier National Grid has signed up for an allocation, as have The Berkshire Gas Company, Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, Connecticut Natural Gas Corporation, Liberty Utilities (EnergyNorth Natural Gas) Corp., Southern Connecticut Gas Corporation, and three other unnamed local distribution companies. The total subscription so far is 500,000 dekatherms per day. A dekatherm is equal to one million cubic feet of natural gas.

“This is mostly residential heating. These are all suppliers of natural gas to homes and businesses. None of this is for electricity. In addition to that 500,000 (dekatherms) that they got a commitment for, we still need approximately 600,000 (dekatherms, or 600 million cubic feet of gas) more — and that is just replacement power for Salem Harbor, Vermont Yankee, and Brayton Point (closed or closing power plants). The plants that can produce that were all standing idle last winter because they couldn’t get the natural gas. They were all standing idle while the price of natural gas went through the roof as availability declined,” he said.

Kelly said he expected Independent System Operators — New England (ISO-NE) a major electricity management company, to commit to an additional 600,000 dekatherms through the proposed pipeline tariff.

“We are extremely pleased to provide a key solution to New England’s long-term energy infrastructure needs,” said Kinder Morgan Natural Gas Pipelines East Region President Kimberly S. Watson. “Multiple studies continue to suggest there is a need for up to 2 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) of new pipeline capacity into New England and neighboring markets, and the commitment by the LDCs represents a critical milestone in the development of TGP’s role in solving the need for new energy infrastructure. TGP provides unmatched supply diversity, including access to the prolific Marcellus Shale, making the Northeast Energy Direct Project an ideal solution to satisfy rapidly growing natural gas demand that is forecast in the Northeast and New England in the years ahead.”

The Kinder Morgan news release yielded a couple more new details on the proposal: “Northeast Energy Direct has capacity scalable from approximately 800,000 Dth/d to 1.2 Bcf/d, or ultimately up to 2.2 Bcf/d, depending on final customer commitments.”

The engineering team led by Hatch Mott MacDonald will, according to its news release, ” … draws on the experience of many locally based firms to provide environmental assessment and permitting services. AECOM Technical Services, Inc. will lead the environmental permitting and utilize resources from its offices in Chelmsford, Mass., Horsham, Pa. and Latham, N.Y., as well as other regional locations. The team will receive support from other local firms including Epsilon Associates (Maynard, Mass.), Normandeau Associates (Bedford, N.H., Falmouth, Mass., and West Haverstraw, N.Y.), Oxbow Associates (Boxborough, Mass.) and the Louis Berger Group (Needham, Mass. and Albany, N.Y.).

“The proposed Wright, N.Y., to Dracut, Mass., segment would result in the construction of approximately
179 miles of pipeline, additional meter stations and compressor stations, and modifications to existing
facilities in New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire.”