Climate Change Agenda Could Have FERC Selecting Pipeline Projects

By Stephen Barlas, Washington Editor | January 2009 Vol. 64 No. 1

Kurtis Haeger, managing director of wholesale planning at Xcel Energy, explained that relatively low cost gas-fired generation capacity is an appropriate bridge strategy until advances are made in developing other technologies such as carbon-capture and storage, or until additional baseload plants with longer lead times such as nuclear can be constructed. Xcel has approximately 3,000 megawatts of wind generated energy in its system. “As a result, I know all too well, how important the flexibility of gas-fired generation can be in integrating wind generation into the grid,” he stated.

The big question seemed to be where the added gas supplies would come from, and how it would be delivered to electric utilities and manufacturing plants. Clearly, there are big hopes for gas production out of the Barnett, Fayetteville and Marcellus shale plays.

There is no question that efforts to increase production of shale gas are going on full bore. Terrence Ruder, senior vice president of the marketing and midstream division at Devon Energy Corp. and also vice chairman of the Natural Gas Supply Association, said currently shale developments provide an estimated six to eight billion cubic feet a day, or roughly 10 to 12 percent of U.S. natural gas demand. “Over the next 10 to 15 years U.S. shale production could triple from today's levels to an estimated 15 to 20 billion cubic feet a day,” he added.

But Alex Strawn, chairman of Process Gas Consumers Group, worried that expansion of pipeline infrastructure to take out that shale gas was now being called into question because of flagging gas prices, “flattening out of the economy” and capital problems at transmission companies.