What's New at NGA?

October 11, 2018
Important Gas Safety Awareness Information
NGA has an extensive information section on its web site addressing the important issue of natural gas safety. Learn more about how safe operations of natural gas: https://www.northeastgas.org/gas_public_awareness.php

Utility Mutual Aid Response Utilized to Assist in Restoring Natural Gas in Merrimack Valley, MA
Utility personnel from throughout the region and the U.S. - from as far as California and New Mexico - are assisting in responding to the natural gas outages in the towns of Lawrence, Andover and N. Andover, MA, following explosions and fires on the local gas distribution system that occurred on September 13. The task for these crews is to do in-home assessments of natural gas appliances and piping inside homes, and prepare for repairs and installation of new appliances as needed. NGA thanks all the participating utilities for responding to the mutual aid request, and notes the essential role of the American Gas Association (AGA) and the Southern Gas Association (SGA) in communicating with their members on the need in Massachusetts.

NTSB Releases Preliminary Report on Over-pressurization of Natural Gas Distribution System in Merrimack Valley, MA
On October 11, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a preliminary report on the September 13, 2018 natural gas incident that resulted from the over-pressure of a Columbia Gas of MA low-pressure natural gas distribution system in three Merrimack Valley towns in MA. The NTSB reports: "On September 13, 2018, about 4:00 p.m. eastern daylight time, a series of explosions and fires occurred after high-pressure natural gas was released into a low-pressure gas distribution system in the northeast region of the Merrimack Valley in the state of Massachusetts. The distribution system was owned and operated by Columbia Gas of Massachusetts (Columbia Gas), a subsidiary of NiSource. The system over-pressure damaged 131 structures, including at least 5 homes that were destroyed in the city of Lawrence and the towns of Andover and North Andover. Most of the damage was a result of structure fires ignited by gas-fueled appliances. Several structures were destroyed by natural gas explosions. One person was killed and at least 21 individuals, including 2 firefighters, were transported to the hospital. Seven other firefighters received minor injuries." The incident involved the following: "The contracted crew was working on a tie-in project of a new plastic distribution main and the abandonment of a cast-iron distribution main. The distribution main that was abandoned still had the regulator sensing lines that were used to detect pressure in the distribution system and provide input to the regulators to control the system pressure. Once the contractor crews disconnected the distribution main that was going to be abandoned, the section containing the sensing lines began losing pressure. As the pressure in the abandoned distribution main dropped about 0.25 inches of water column (about 0.01 psig), the regulators responded by opening further, increasing pressure in the distribution system. Since the regulators no longer sensed system pressure they fully opened allowing the full flow of high-pressure gas to be released into the distribution system supplying the neighborhood, exceeding the maximum allowable pressure." The NTSB's investigation into this accident is ongoing. Future investigative issues include the coordination between the emergency responders and Columbia Gas; an analysis of the engineering work package preparation and execution, including the design documentation; and a review of construction packages for constructability and safety. The NTSB report can be found online: https://ntsb.gov/investigations/AccidentReports/Pages/PLD18MR003-preliminary-report.aspx

Update on Construction Restoration Project Plan for Greater Lawrence, MA Area
On October 2, Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, a unit of NiSource Inc., announced the construction restoration project plan on the path to restoring gas service to customers in the greater Lawrence area. The plan includes the deployment of nearly 200 construction crews as part of a combined workforce of about 3,000 employees and contractors, aiming to complete the project by November 19 with progressive restoration of customers' gas service. Columbia Gas will share information about service restoration and construction at: https://www.columbiagas.com/massachusetts/home

U.S. EIA Releases Winter Fuels Outlook; Natural Gas Projected to be Most Affordable Home Heating Option
On October 10, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released its "Winter Fuels Outlook." Among the observations are:
  • "EIA forecasts that average U.S. household expenditures for most major home heating fuels will be higher this winter compared with last winter. Average increases vary by fuel; natural gas expenditures are forecast to rise by 5%, home heating oil by 20%, and electricity by 3%, while propane expenditures are forecast to remain similar to last year. Most of the increase reflects higher forecast energy prices. U.S. average heating degree days are expected to be 1% higher than last winter."
  • "EIA expects natural gas inventories to end October at the lowest levels for that time of year since 2005. Inventories of distillate fuel and propane are also below the five-year (2013-17) average in several regions. Although inventory levels are low, EIA expects fuel supplies to be adequate to meet winter demand."
  • EIA data shows that there are over 1 million new homes heating with natural gas in the Northeast since 2010, and about 1.3 million fewer homes heating with oil.
  • EIA projects natural gas home heating in the Northeast to cost less this winter than homes heating with heating oil, propane or electricity.
  • In a presentation on the "Winter Fuels Outlook," EIA staff observed: "In the case of very cold temperatures, Northeast electricity markets could see constrained natural gas supplies into the region causing electricity generation to be supplied by more expensive fuels, such as petroleum, which could contribute to higher wholesale electricity prices."

Look for further details online: https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/steo/

ACEEE Releases Report on States' Achievements in Energy Efficiency; 5 of the Top 10 States are in the Northeast; Nearly 40% of Gas Efficiency Programs Nationwide Emanate from the 9 Northeast States
On October 4, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) released its annual State Energy Efficiency Scorecard. Available online at https://aceee.org/research-report/u1808, the ACEEE State Scorecard shows that the top 10 energy efficiency states are Massachusetts (in its eighth consecutive year atop the rankings), California, Rhode Island, Vermont, Connecticut, New York, Oregon, Minnesota, Washington, and Maryland. In 2017, $1.34 billion was invested in natural gas efficiency programs nationwide, according to the ACEEE. Of that, 39% of the national total ($522 million) was invested in the nine Northeast states (CT, ME, MA, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI and VT).

Dr. Ernest Moniz, Former U.S. Energy Secretary, to be Keynote Speaker at U.S.-Canada Energy Conference, Nov. 1-2, in Boston
Dr. Ernest Moniz of MIT, former U.S. Energy Secretary, will be the keynote speaker at the New England-Canada Business Council's (NECBC's) 2018 Energy Conference in Boston. NGA is a co-sponsor of the 26th Annual U.S. - Canada Energy Trade & Technology Conference, to be held November 1-2, 2018 in Boston, MA. Topics include regional energy infrastructure initiatives and cross-border projects with Canada. Further information can be found at www.necbc.org/energy-trade.