What's New at NGA?

November 15, 2019
Call Before You Dig - Dig Safely!
The Common Ground Alliance (CGA) and its stakeholders remind homeowners and contractors to call 811 before they dig to prevent injuries, property damage and inconvenient outages. More information is at: https://call811.com/

In addition to the national 811 service, NGA reminds its members - and the general public - that each of the Northeast states has a local "One Call Center." NGA has links to all the sites linked through the "Public Awareness" section of its web site, at www.northeastgas.org. Utilize these important resources - be aware - and be safe!

U.S. HHS Releases Low-Income Home Energy Heating Assistance Funding for States; Northeast States Receiving Around $900 Million in Total
On November 1, the Office of Community Services (OCS), Division of Energy Assistance (DEA), of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) announced the initial release of approximately $3.3 billion of Federal Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 regular block grant funding to LIHEAP grantees. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) helps keep families safe and healthy through initiatives that assist families with energy costs. The 9 Northeast states are receiving $905.6 million of the total allotment, as follows: CT, $62.3 million; ME, $36.1 million; MA, $114.2 million; NH, $24.7 million; NJ, $108 million; NY, $338.5 million; PA, $181.8 million; RI, $21.5 million; and VT, $18.5 million. Further information can be found at:
https://www.acf.hhs.gov/ocs/resource/liheap-dcl-funding-release-fy20

IEA Releases "World Energy Outlook 2019" with Continuing Role for Natural Gas Projected
On November 13, the he International Energy Agency released "World Energy Outlook 2019." The press release can be found here:
https://www.iea.org/newsroom/news/2019/november/world-energy-outlook-2019-highlights-deep-disparities-in-the-global-energy-system.html

Among the observations on natural gas are the following:
  • "Shale output from the United States is set to stay higher for longer than previously projected, reshaping global markets, trade flows and security. In the Stated Policies Scenario, annual US production growth slows from the breakneck pace seen in recent years, but the United States still accounts for 85% of the increase in global oil production to 2030, and for 30% of the increase in gas. By 2025, total US shale output (oil and gas) overtakes total oil and gas production from Russia."

  • "Natural gas had a remarkable year in 2018, with a 4.6% increase in consumption accounting for nearly half of the increase in global energy demand. We asked in 2011 whether the world might be poised to enter a "Golden Age of Gas", and now it appears that global gas consumption is very close to those 2011 projections. Since 2010, 80% of growth has been concentrated in three key regions: the United States, where the shale gas revolution is in full swing; China, where economic expansion and air quality concerns have underpinned rapid growth; and the Middle East, where gas is a gateway to economic diversification from oil. Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is the key to more broad-based growth in future; 2019 is already a record year for investment in new LNG supply, even as prices in key importing regions have fallen to record lows."

  • "Natural gas continues to outperform coal or oil in both the Stated Policies Scenario (where gas demand grows by over a third) and the Sustainable Development Scenario (where gas demand grows modestly to 2030 before reverting to present levels by 2040). However, the gas industry faces some commercial and environmental challenges as well as some major variations in the storyline in different parts of the world."

  • "Although absolute consumption falls, natural gas gains market share at the expense of both coal and oil in sectors that are difficult to decarbonise, such as heavy-duty transport and the use of heat in industry. Even though natural gas-fired power generation declines, capacity grows compared with today as a consequence of the role of gas in providing power system flexibility."

Algonquin Power & Utilities Completes Acquisition of Enbridge St. Lawrence Gas
On November 1, Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp. ("APUC" or the "Company") announced that its subsidiary Liberty Utilities Co., APUC's wholly-owned regulated utility business, successfully completed its acquisition of Enbridge St. Lawrence Gas from Enbridge Gas Inc., a subsidiary of Enbridge Inc. Enbridge St. Lawrence Gas is a regulated utility that provides natural gas to over 16,000 customers in 23 communities across northern New York State, and operates approximately 688 miles of natural gas distribution pipeline. "We are pleased to welcome the employees and customers of St. Lawrence Gas to the Liberty Utilities family," said Ian Robertson, Chief Executive Officer of APUC. "St. Lawrence Gas represents a new avenue for future investment as we look forward to serving the area with clean, affordable natural gas for their homes and businesses." APUC looks forward to providing increased access to natural gas in northern New York State service territories, in particular the expansion areas of St. Lawrence and Franklin Counties. The Company also plans to make access more readily available to residents and small businesses through a shareholder-funded Carbon Reduction Initiative. The fund will be used to off-set the customer cost to convert to natural gas from oil or propane, as well as for energy efficiency improvements.

Liberty Utilities Announces Acquisition of Blackstone Gas Company
On October 31, Liberty Utilities (New England Natural Gas Company) Corp. announced it has agreed to purchase privately owned Blackstone Gas Company, a regulated utility that provides natural gas to over 1,900 customers in Blackstone, Bellingham and parts of Wrentham, MA.
"The acquisition of Blackstone Gas builds on the great service that customers of both Liberty Utilities and Blackstone Gas have come to know from their service providers," said Peter Eichler, President of Liberty Utilities - Massachusetts. "With this transaction, the combined company will be better suited to meet the changing dynamics of the natural gas industry in Massachusetts."
As part of the acquisition, all operations employees of Blackstone Gas will become employees of Liberty Utilities. "Our familiarity with the Blackstone Gas service territory and operations will allow for seamless integration into the Liberty Utilities family. With the employees of Blackstone joining Liberty Utilities, customers can look forward to receiving the same great service they receive today," said Eichler.

U.S. EIA Releases Winter Fuels Outlook; Natural Gas Projected to be Most Affordable Home Heating Option
On October 8, 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 all major home heating fuels will decrease this winter compared with last. This forecast largely reflects warmer expected winter temperatures compared with last winter."
  • "EIA forecast that natural gas storage levels will total 3,792 Bcf by the end of October, which is 2% above the five-year average and 17% above October 2018 levels."
  • EIA data shows that there are over 1 million new homes heating with natural gas in the Northeast since 2012, and about 1 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.
Look for further details online: https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/steo/

FERC Releases Winter Energy Market Assessment
On October 17, the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) released its "2019-2020 Winter Energy Market Assessment." Among the observations are:
  • "Going into this winter, natural gas storage levels are close to the five-year average and natural gas futures prices are lower than last winter. Also, pipeline additions in the Permian and Marcellus Basins have bolstered the fuel supply chain, allowing additional natural gas supplies to reach markets. However, certain regions are more dependent on natural gas than others, and pipeline outages have the potential to increase both electric and natural gas price volatility. Coal and oil-fired generation continue to play an important role in maintaining electric reliability during the winter, especially in the Northeast, where winter demand for natural gas can exceed pipelines' capacity."
  • "Warmer than average winter temperatures are expected in the Northeast, West, Texas, and Florida, with the Upper Midwest experiencing more normal conditions."
  • "Algonquin Gas Transmission and Texas Eastern Transmission have announced capacity reductions to accommodate pipeline safety and integrity testing. The restrictions vary by both location and magnitude; however, the publicly available schedules posted by the companies suggest most restrictions should end by December. Staff will continue to monitor the timelines and any potential impacts on natural gas and electric markets."
The presentation can be found online: https://ferc.gov/market-assessments/reports-analyses/mkt-views/2019/10-17-19-A-3.pdf

Proposed Compressor Station in MA Receives Final State Permit
On November 12, the Massachusetts Office of Coastal and Zone Management announced that it had completed its review of the proposed project involving Algonquin Gas Transmission, LLC (Algonquin)'s construction of a new natural gas compressor station in the Town of Weymouth. The agency stated that "based upon our review of applicable information, we concur with your certification and find that the activity as proposed is consistent with the CZM enforceable program policies." This concludes the state permitting process for the project. Opponents of the compressor station say they will appeal.

NYS DPS Releases Winter Energy Market Preview
On October 17, the New York State Public Service Commission (Commission) announced that the price of electricity this winter in the State is expected to be slightly lower than last winter on average. Likewise, for natural gas, based on lower prices and a normal weather forecast, the average customer's bill is expected to be lower than last year. Among other observations by the PSC are the following:
  • "The LDCs serving New York State are in the process of contracting for adequate natural gas supply, delivery capacity and storage inventory to satisfy current firm customer demands under typical winter conditions, including additional new contracts designed to replace volumes lost due to the Enbridge situation. The Department will also continue to closely monitor areas of the State where demand is growing at a faster pace, and where the existing distribution system is becoming constrained. Department staff continues to coordinate with oil industry representatives and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to ensure that customers have access to adequate supplies of winter heating fuels."
  • "This Fall...the utilities were informed by Enbridge, the owner of the Texas Eastern and Algonquin Pipelines, that there would be pressure reductions this winter on both pipelines. The resulting capacity reductions will impact deliveries into the Goethals station in Staten Island and the South Manhattan Gate station in Manhattan and require offsetting measures."
The DPS press release can be found here: http://www3.dps.ny.gov/pscweb/webfileroom.nsf/ArticlesByCategory/EBE2BCF2EFA95869852584960060E996/$File/pr19090.pdf?OpenElement

NGA and GTI Release Interconnect Guide for Renewable Natural Gas in New York State
On September 16, 2019, NGA and GTI released a report called: "Interconnect Guide for Renewable Natural Gas in New York State." The report was sponsored by and developed in coordination with several New York State natural gas utilities. The guidance document provides a framework and technical guidance by which all parties - including project developers and the local gas utility - can work together utilizing common core principles and a rigorous technical framework to facilitate maximizing the acceptance and introduction of RNG into the natural gas pipeline network. While developed for New York State, this report provides a guideline for RNG pipeline interconnections that will be applicable and of value throughout the U.S. and Canada. The report can be found on the NGA Publications page:
https://www.northeastgas.org/publications.php