Moving gas to markets continues to challenge natural gas industry

Building the pipelines needed to transfer natural gas to markets has been the rallying cry of the gas industry for quite some time. But exactly what does that involve and what will it all mean?

Michael Atchie, public outreach and business partner, Williams Transco, outlined his company’s pipeline infrastructure process for the Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce Monday.

Williams, which overall operates more than 33,000 miles of pipeline, is looking to build the Atlantic Sunrise Expansion project to transfer gas from the Marcellus Shale market region as far south as Georgia and Alabama.

“There is a growing need for pipeline infrastructure,” he said.

In fact, Atchie said, there is enough gas to meet the daily needs of some 7 million U.S. homes.

The pipeline, representing the largest expansion of the Transco system, will impact 10 counties of Pennsylvania, including Lycoming, and employ about 2,300 people in the region during its construction.

A draft statement from the U.S. Environmental Regulatory Commission revealed that the Atlantic Sunrise project will have a “less than significant” environmental impact.

Atchie said the project undergoes a regulatory process at various levels of government. And, it involves negotiating with landowners for pipeline locations.

“In a small number of cases, we have eminent domain with transmission lines,” he said.

Atchie noted that between 25 and 30 percent of wells drilled in the Marcellus Shale continue to lack the ability to transfer gas from their sites.

Fred H. Hutchison, executive director, LNG Allies and Our Energy Moment, said the big challenge remains in building pipelines needed to move the gas to markets.

“There is a thirst for our gas,” he said. “The single most vulnerable lever we have is infrastructure.”

The good news is that the Marcellus Shale and Utica Shale offer great “upstream resources.”

Atchie noted that natural gas heats about half of all U.S. homes.

H.E. Rolandas Krisciunas, ambassador to the U.S., Republic of Lithuania, said the demand in that country for natural gas is certainly there.

Right now, the Baltic nation imports much of its gas from Norway after developing a floating LNG import terminal.

That allowed Lithuania to import gas from Norwegian tankers, reducing its dependence on Russia for that natural resource.

“It’s a changing world,” he said.

Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce President Vince Matteo said it would be a huge mistake for the U.S. to fail to continue tapping its natural gas reserves.