New England’s lack of gas lines causes billion of gallons of oil to be burned

New England power plants were forced to burn two billion gallons of oil over four days in early January when the bomb cyclone smacked the six states — vividly illustrating the need for additional natural gas pipelines, a FERC commissioner said last week.

Robert Powelson, who assumed his seat on the five-member Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last August, told an audience at Hart Energy’s Ninth Annual Marcellus-Utica Midstream Conference & Exhibition in Pittsburgh, New England is in the middle of a “market crisis.” (Kallanish Energy was in attendance at the conference.)

"The bomb cyclone wrecked havoc in New England,” said Powelson, a long-time member of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission before moving to FERC.

Powelson said the combination of a lack of sufficient lines to get needed natural gas to New England, coupled with the severe Arctic blast of the cyclone combined to give New England the dubious honor for a few days having the highest gas prices in the world.

“People were saying as early as 2014, ‘Houston, we have a problem,’” concerning the New England situation, according to the FERC commissioner.

In the last seven months, since FERC had a full complement of commissioners at the table, the commission has approved roughly $25.6 billion worth of pipeline infrastructure, he said – nothing in New England.

The FERC commissioner said the country is “dashing to gas”, and the result is fewer emissions and much cleaner air.

“From 2008 to 2016, there was a 32% reduction in the volume of NOX (nitrous oxides), SOX (sulphur oxides) and mercury emissions in PJM ( a regional transmission organization that coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity in all or parts of 13 states and the District of Columbia) – the first time since 1970 the power sector has emitted less pollution than the transportation sector,” Powelson said.

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