Selected category: Natural Gas

Dysfunctional gas market cost New England electric customers $3.6 billion

This blog post was co-authored with Levi MarksCharles Mason and Matthew Zaragoza-Watkins

New England natural gas and electricity prices have undergone dramatic spikes in recent years, spurring talk about the need for a costly new pipeline to meet the region’s needs as demand for gas seemed ready to overtake suppliers’ available capacity to deliver it. For example, during the polar vortex of 2013-14, the gas price at New England’s main gas trading hub regularly exceeded $20/MMBtu (million British Thermal Units, the measure commonly used in the gas industry) and reached a record high of $78/MMBtu on January 22, 2014, compared to the annual average of $5.50/MMBtu.

In an efficient market, we would indeed expect prices to be high during events like the polar vortex. We would also expect pipelines delivering gas to regions like the Boston area – in this case the Algonquin Gas Transmission (AGT) pipeline – to be fully utilized. But this is not what we observed when we analyzed the scheduling patterns on the AGT pipeline from 2013 to 2016.

What 8 million data points told us about artificial shortages

Our research group spent 18 months looking at eight million data points covering the three-year period from mid-2013 to mid-2016. We discovered that during this period, a handful of New England gas utilities owned by two large energy companies routinely scheduled large deliveries, then cancelled orders at the last minute. These scheduling practices created an artificial shortage when in fact there was far more pipeline capacity on the system than it appeared. Read More »

Also posted in Gas to Clean| Comments are closed

What’s new for the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program?

This week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency posted the 2016 Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP) data online. While there are positive trends in the type of data included and the ways that data are measured, the general picture is of an industry with many remaining opportunities to reduce emissions.

The GHGRP is an emissions reporting program for large facilities that emit more than 25,000 metric tons carbon dioxide equivalents (MT CO2e) of methane and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The data provided by the GHGRP are invaluable for understanding the sectors and sources responsible for GHG emissions and can guide the design of effective policies for reducing emissions.

Additionally, EPA has been incorporating GHGRP data into the Greenhouse Gas Inventory, an annual report that estimates U.S. GHG emissions. In 2016, 7,631 facilities reported emitting almost 3 billion MT CO2e GHGs. After power plants, which are responsible for 63% of reported emissions, the oil and gas (O&G) sector is the largest source of GHG emissions. This year there are three major changes to the reporting protocols for oil and gas facilities. Read More »

Also posted in Methane| Comments are closed

Looking beyond pipelines to address New England’s electricity needs

Our dramatic seasonal temperature fluctuations here in New England create a unique energy challenge. Most days of the year (i.e. spring, summer, and fall), we have enough pipeline capacity, or space, to meet electricity and heating demand. However, approximately 40 days out of the year natural gas pipeline capacity becomes scarce, and in certain hours, unavailable; and the system relies on storage to maintain sufficient gas supply and delivery to homes, businesses, and electric power plants.

Many people look at the region’s pipeline constraints and assume that the only solution is to build more pipelines. This is a logical reaction, but it overlooks an opportunity to explore multiple solutions in a more economical and holistic way.  Rather than only looking at pipeline solutions, why not broaden the solution conversation by calling forth market competition?

The grid needs to foster participation by all resources

All resources can help ensure reliability during those key hours when pipelines are constrained. By allowing resources, such as batteries, pumped storage, demand response, and LNG, to compete, market forces can be used to fill in gaps, reward resources that are flexible and available to meet peak demand, and ultimately signal to investors when and where right-sized investments are needed. Read More »

Also posted in Gas to Clean| Comments are closed

Stopping the self-deal: Preventing pipeline investors from offloading risk on ratepayers

A recent report published by Oil Change International highlights the failure of regulators to protect ratepayers against utility affiliate-backed contracts for new pipeline capacity -in other words, when a regulated utility acts as both the developer and customer for a new pipeline.  It’s a widespread and growing issue. Case in point: Con Ed’s investment in the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline in West Virginia and Virginia, hundreds of miles from Con Ed’s New York service territory.

Con Ed claims that signing up for transportation service on the pipeline will result in cost savings for customers. But the day Con Ed signed up as a pipeline customer, the company also formed a new “midstream” entity to invest in the pipeline. The new unregulated entity shares the same corporate parent as the regulated utility, but operates under significantly different rules and legal obligations. This transactional structure means that Con Ed’s ratepayers would be  on the hook for paying for the project, while Con Ed’s midstream arm will enjoy a return in excess of risk. From the company standpoint, it’s heads-I-win, tails-you-lose. Read More »

Also posted in Gas to Clean, General| Comments are closed

Methane leadership is a competitive advantage, says global investor

Early oil and gas industry adopters of methane management strategies and technologies are starting to see these reductions as an opportunity to gain a competitive edge.

Just last week, ExxonMobil announced  a new methane reduction program for its XTO Energy subsidiary, underscoring that the industry is paying close attention to the issue.

Methane, the main ingredient in natural gas, is leaked and vented across the oil and gas supply chain every day as the world energy mix shifts towards greater natural gas usage, according to the International Energy Agency. The oil and gas industry wastes billions of dollars a year of methane that simultaneously acts as a climate change accelerator, harming the brand of natural gas as a cheap and clean fuel source. Methane is 84 times more powerful as a heat-trapper than carbon in its first 20 years in the atmosphere.

In the second part of Environmental Defense Fund’s recent interview with Tim Goodman, Director of Engagement at London-based Hermes Investment Management, Goodman shares his views on why oil and gas companies addressing methane emissions are gaining a competitive edge, and how investors are paving the path for more companies to follow suit. (You can find the first part of the interview here.) Read More »

Also posted in Methane| Comments are closed

NASA helped locate over 300 methane hot spots across California

Last week the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and California Energy Commission (CEC) released interim results from a NASA study that offers the most clear-eyed assessment yet of California’s largest individual sources of methane pollution.

Methane – a potent greenhouse gas responsible for about a quarter of global warming – is emitted from several different sources, including refineries, landfills, dairy farms, and oil and gas facilities. This new study identifies 329 of the largest pollution sources and offers insights to policy makers about opportunities for reducing these emissions.

Here are four key takeaways from the latest research.

California must focus on super emitters to cut pollution

Previous studies in other regions have shown that when it comes to methane, a small set of high-emitting sites, known as “super emitters” tend to be responsible for a significant amount of total emissions. The new CARB study suggests the same is likely occurring in California (measurements of actual amounts of the methane will be released in the second phase of the project next year).  Many times these super emitters occur randomly, such as when a major piece of equipment breaks and releases a large amount of pollution. Other times, as this study shows, these sites can be landfills, dairy farms, and refineries that simply release a lot of pollution.  Read More »

Also posted in Air Quality, California, Methane| Comments are closed
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