March 2021 Vol. 76 No. 3



New Two-Day Record for U.S. Natural Gas Delivery 

The massive February winter storm that swept across the U.S. forced many cities to experience record-breaking temperatures which also led to a new two-day record for natural gas delivery. 

151.7 billion cubic feet (Bcf) of natural gas was delivered in the U.S. on Feb. 14 and 149.8 Bcf was delivered on Feb. 15 making it the second highest delivery day ever and setting a record for the largest demand for a two-day period, according to the American Gas Association (AGA). 

Despite the extreme cold across the U.S., the AGA states there were sufficient natural gas supply and delivery capacity for space heating, hot water, cooking, manufacturing, electricity generation and our export agreements with foreign allies. 

“Natural gas companies are able to reliably deliver for their customers even in the most challenging circumstances due to thorough preparation and a dependable and resilient delivery system, the importance of which comes into clear focus during extreme weather events like we are seeing right now in many parts of the country,” said AGA President and CEO Karen Harbert. 

On Feb. 14, 69.8 Bcf of natural gas flowed to the residential and commercial sector and 27.8 Bcf was used in the industrial sector. 37.7 Bcf of natural gas was used to generate electricity and 12.6 Bcf was exported, either by pipeline to Mexico or transported as liquified natural gas by ship. On Feb. 15, 68.9 Bcf of natural gas flowed to residential and commercial sector, 27.5 Bcf to industrial, 39.7 Bcf to power generation and 9.8 Bcf was exported. 

Even with preparation, some natural gas providers are still faced delivery challenges due to the weather. 

Millions of customers in northern Mexico are also facing power outages because of the disrupted electricity production in Texas. 

While natural gas utilities faced some unprecedented challenges and spot prices climbed in some regions due to spikes in demand, families and businesses that use natural gas were protected from higher prices by the careful planning of their utilities. 

Natural gas utilities use multiple long-term contracts that seek to guarantee enough supply to meet demand and to lock-in affordable prices. Utilities also buy natural gas in the summer when it is more affordable and store it to deliver on the coldest days. Thirty-eight percent of the natural gas delivered on Feb. 15 came from storage. 

The previous two-day record was set on Jan. 30 and Jan. 31, 2019, when 155 Bcf and 141 Bcf were delivered or exported. Since then, natural gas utilities have added approximately 1.25 million residential customers and 50,000 businesses. 

Brianna Rodriguez, Managing Editor 


11 Rescued from Flooded Streets After Main Break 

At least 11 people were rescued Feb. 16 after a large water main break in Philadelphia left cars submerged and the area completely flooded, authorities said. 

The 48-inch break occurred around 6 p.m. in the Nicetown area of North Philadelphia, news outlets reported. 

Flood waters consumed the streets, swamping cars and leaving workers and customers of a nearby U-Haul storage facility trapped inside, authorities said. 

Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel said one woman was freed from her car, which was immersed in the floodwater, and 10 others were rescued from the U-Haul facility. 

It’s unclear what caused the rupture. Similar water main breaks have occurred blocks from the site, including a break in 2015 near the Bakers Square shopping center that flooded the streets with nearly 7 million gallons of water, news outlets reported. 


Senator Seeks Probe of Natural Gas Price Spikes During Storm 

A Democratic senator is calling for federal investigations into possible price gouging of natural gas in the Midwest and other regions following severe winter storms that plunged Texas and other states into a deep freeze that caused power outages in millions of homes and businesses. 

Minnesota Sen. Tina Smith says natural gas spot prices spiked as high as 100 times typical levels, forcing utilities and other natural gas users to incur exorbitant costs, many of which were passed on to customers. 

In a letter sent Feb. 20 to federal regulators, Smith said the price spikes will not just harm consumers but could “threaten the financial stability of some utilities that do not have sufficient cash reserves to cover their short-term costs in this extraordinary event.” The letter was sent to the Energy Department, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission. 

The extreme weather spurred residents from Mississippi to Minnesota to crank up electric heaters and pushed demand for electricity beyond the worst-case scenarios planned for by grid operators. At the same time, many gas-fired power plants in Texas and other states were knocked offline because of icy conditions, and some plants appeared to suffer fuel shortages as natural gas demand spiked nationwide. 

More than 70 deaths across the U.S. have been blamed on the storms. 

In Winfield, Kans., the city manager reported that a unit of natural gas that sold for about $3 earlier this month sold for more than $400. City Manager Taggart Wall told KWCH-TV in Wichita that Winfield, which budgets about $1.5 million a year for natural gas, expects to pay about $10 million for the week of the storm alone. Residential customers could see bills as high as $2,500 for February, he said. 

In Morton, Ill., officials reported that gas normally sold for about $3 per unit cost nearly $225 as demand soared because of the deep freeze. 

A spokesman for the American Gas Association, which represents more than 200 local energy companies, said Feb. 14 and 15 set a record for the largest natural gas demand in U.S. history over a two-day period. 

While natural gas utilities faced “unprecedented challenges” and “spot prices climbed in some regions due to spikes in demand, families and businesses that use natural gas were protected from higher prices by the careful planning of their utilities, said Jake Rubin, a spokesman for the gas association. Most natural gas utilities use long-term contracts that seek to guarantee enough supply to meet demand and to lock-in affordable prices, he said. 


Judge Needs More Time for Flint Water Case 

A judge overseeing misdemeanor charges against a former Michigan governor in the Flint water scandal said Tuesday he’s struggling with how to handle an aggressive effort to have the case dismissed. 

Judge William Crawford II said he needs more time to research whether prosecutors filed the case in the wrong county as well as other issues. 

As a District Court judge, Crawford said he doesn’t know if he can decide about the work of a Circuit Court judge who served as a one-man grand jury and returned an indictment against Rick Snyder. 

“Don’t remember that in law school. Don’t remember that on the bar exam, either. ... This is all new to me,” Crawford said. 

He asked lawyers on both sides to submit more briefs and return to court next Tuesday. 

Snyder, a Republican, is charged with willful neglect of duty. Emergency managers who were appointed by Snyder to run Flint switched the city’s water source to the Flint River in 2014-15 while a new pipeline was being built from Lake Huron. 

The river water wasn’t treated to reduce corrosion, resulting in lead contamination from old pipes. While residents complained about skunky water, Snyder’s environmental agency insisted the water was safe until a doctor in 2015 reported elevated lead levels in children. 

Separately, the water was blamed for a fatal outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease. The catastrophe in the impoverished, majority-Black city has been described as an example of environmental racism. 

Snyder was one of nine people charged in January. Two people who were senior health officials in his administration were charged with involuntary manslaughter for nine deaths linked to Legionnaires’. 


Utilities Unite to Cut Wildfire Risk 

California’s largest utilities will spend about $13 billion to reduce the risk of wildfires following the worst fire season in modern state history and a string of blazes that were blamed on their equipment. 

Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric and some smaller utilities filed state-required annual wildfire mitigation plans with California’s Public Utilities Commission, which must approve them. 

PG&E, the nation’s largest utility with more than 5.5 million customers concentrated in the north and center of the state, proposed a plan covering 2021 and 2022. 

It includes a new computerized risk model that will help it pinpoint the areas most prone to wildfires where the utility will concentrate safety work, PG&E said. 

The utility said it will continue efforts to expand those measures, which include installing poles that are more fire-resistant and moving overhead power lines underground to keep them from sparking fires if high winds knock them down or blow tree branches into them. 

The utility also said it will continue installing weather stations and high-definition cameras throughout its coverage area of 70,000 square miles (181,300 square kilometers). 

PG&E said it also will continue efforts to reduce the size of deliberate power shutoffs that have blacked out hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses for several days during windy weather. That would include installing hundreds of devices to limit power outages, along with microgrids, which use generators to keep the electricity on and providing more crews to make repairs and restore power. 

The latest plan follows a year that saw a record 4 million acres burn around the state and the risk continues to grow, PG&E said. 

PG&E’s outdated equipment was blamed for causing a series of wildfires during 2017 and 2018 that killed more than 120 people and destroyed more than 27,000 homes and other buildings. The damage caused PG&E to file for bankruptcy in 2019, opening a legal avenue for the company to negotiate $25.5 billion in settlements with wildfire victims and others. 

The utility has emerged from bankruptcy and received permission to pass on some costs of its wildfire mitigation efforts to ratepayers. The utility estimated the cost of the plan over 2021 and 2022 will run about $6 billion. 

Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric also submitted updated mitigation plans at a total estimated cost of nearly $5 billion for 2021 and 2022. 


Supreme Court to Hear New Jersey Natural Gas Pipeline Case 

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal by a gas company seeking to use state-controlled land in New Jersey to build a 116-mile natural gas pipeline. 

The high court said it would take the case brought by the PennEast Pipeline Co. and that the case would be argued in April. In 2019, a federal appeals court in Philadelphia sided with New Jersey officials who argued the company can’t use eminent domain to acquire state-controlled properties that are preserved for farmland or open space. The judges wrote that while the federal Natural Gas Act allows private gas companies to exercise the federal government’s power to take property by eminent domain, that doesn’t extend to state-owned properties. 

The proposed pipeline would run from Pennsylvania’s Luzerne County to Mercer County in New Jersey. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission had allowed the project to move forward in 2018. 


Report: Gas Pipeline Builder Changed Plans Without Approval 

A state investigation found that the builder of a natural gas pipeline in Vermont deviated from approved construction plans without informing the state. 

The Public Utility Commission report found that Vermont Gas made several changes to the approved construction plan for the 41-mile pipeline without informing the commission, Vermont Public Radio reported. 

“Vermont Gas gave no advance notice of its plans nor did it seek approval of these changes before they occurred. This prevented any analysis of those changes by the Commission and denied the public an opportunity to comment on the changes,” hearing officer Michael Tousley wrote in the Jan. 29 order. 

Construction on the pipeline that runs from Colchester to Middlebury was completed in 2017 but faced legal challenges even after gas started to flow to customers. 

Frozen Pipe Burst Causes Wastewater Spill 

A frozen pipe that burst at a Nebraska ethanol plant had been ordered to close a week earlier, causing a wastewater spill, environmental officials say. 

The AltEn ethanol plant reported the accidental discharge early Feb. 13 at the facility near Mead, the Omaha World-Herald reported. 

Personnel at an adjacent University of Nebraska-Lincoln agricultural research, extension and education center worked to contain the spill. 

The spill is the latest problem at the AltEn facility, which was ordered to close because its wastewater lagoons were in danger of overflowing and contaminating nearby property and waterways. 

The state also ordered AltEn to dispose of its leftover grain by March 1, either by dumping it in a licensed landfill or incinerating it. The leftover grain can’t be used as cattle feed because the facility uses seed corn, which is coated in pesticides and herbicides. 

It’s been left in piles

From Archive


{{ error }}
{{ comment.comment.Name }} • {{ comment.timeAgo }}
{{ comment.comment.Text }}