Report: New England electric sector will face gas supply deficit

Friday, November 21, 2014

A recently released report on the adequacy of New England’s natural gas pipeline infrastructure has identified the potential for shortfalls in gas supply to electric generators through 2020.  The November 20, 2014 report, Assessment of New England’s Natural Gas Pipeline Capacity to Satisfy Short and Near-Term Electric Generation Needs: Phase II, was prepared by consulting group ICF International for regional electric grid operator ISO New England Inc.  It found “a high probability that the electric sector will have a gas supply deficit on 24 to 34 day per winter by 2019/20.”

The Phase II report follows on a 2011/12 “Phase I” study by ICF of the adequacy of the natural gas pipeline infrastructure in New England to serve the combined needs of the core natural gas market and the regional electric generation fleet.  In the years since the Phase I study, existing natural gas and electric power systems have experienced significant changes, with further changes projected.  ISO-NE also identified the need to extend the power sector gas supply adequacy analysis beyond the peak winter and summer demand day, to examine supply adequacy throughout the peak winter demand period (December 1 through February 28).

ICF’s Phase II report presents its updated findings given these changes.  Its conclusions include:
  • Despite the likelihood of 450 MMcf/d of new interstate natural gas transportation capacity being added by the end of 2016, the New England market is likely to remain supply constrained through 2020.
  • Updating projections for energy efficiency has a significant impact on projected gas consumption for electric generation. The studied cases reduced projection winter peak day gas consumption by as much as 550,000 Dth by 2019/20.  However, this was not sufficient to eliminate the projected winter peak day supply deficits.
  • Future imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) into the region are likely to be well below the rated capacity of the import terminals.  Neither the Northeast Gateway nor Neptune offshore import terminal has received any shipments since 2010, and neither was projected to receive any future LNG shipments in this study.
  • The Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline from Eastern Canada into New England is expected to continue to flow at full capacity on a peak winter day. Eastern Canadian gas production is expected to decline overall from 2015 through 2020, even as the Deep Panuke field ramps up its production. Historically, the Canaport LNG terminal in St. John, New Brunswick, has been managed to keep the pipeline full on peak winter days (when New England gas demand and gas prices are highest). In the future, with fewer LNG shipments coming in, the pipeline will flow full on fewer winter days, reducing natural gas supplies into New England.
  • The Winter Near-Peak analysis indicates that gas supply deficits may occur not just on peak days, but also on multiple high demand days throughout the winter. Based on projected gas supplies, local distribution company (LDC) demands for retail gas supply, and electric generator gas demands, there is a high probability that the electric sector will have a gas supply deficit on 24 to 34 day per winter by 2019/20.
With the Phase II report now in ISO New England's hands, the grid operator has an updated analysis of the adequacy of the region's natural gas pipeline infrastructure to meet all the demands on it through 2020.  ISO New England describes itself as playing three critical roles: grid operation, market administration, and power system planning.  From all three of these perspectives, projections of a high probability of gas supply deficit for the electric power sector are troubling.  ICF's findings thus may shape how ISO New England -- or state and federal regulators -- reforms the New England gas and electric markets.

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