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Old 09-05-2017, 12:59 PM   #1
Arlington
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Natural Gas (LNG, Pipelines, & Distribution)

There should be lots to talk about in a thread devoted to Natural Gas infrastructure.

A quick history: Coal gasification, to create manufactured gas or "city gas" for lighting dates to the early 1800s. The original application was lighting (from an open flame). By the late 1800s, though, Electric lighting was about 10x cheaper, and the introduction of the mineral mantle (the white thimble-sized thing) was a last-ditch attempt to increase light output (by 3x) and slow the exodus to bulbs. It did not work. Worse, city gas had never gotten to the countryside, which converted straight from Kerosene to electric.

By 1900, the lighting business was dead, and Natural Gas also missed another window as people switched directly from coal heat to oil heat--Texan and Saudi oil was cheap and easy to tanker.

With both light and heating impractical, and left with a whole lot of sunk cost infrastructure, the gas companies promoted gas for residential cooking (and the expression "cooking with gas"), in which gas did pretty well at displacing coal, oil or wood.

Prior to 1950-ish, gas was manufactured from coal and stored in big gasometer tanks. Coal gasification produced enormous quantities of coal tar (sludge) which German chemists taught the world to turn into all kinds of chemicals and new synthesized pigments (like Magenta/).

By the 50s and 60s, transmission pipelines were bringing natural gas from TX/LA (it was a cheap by-product of the oil biz) and gas in the Northeast became cheap enough to heat your house with, and convert the lamps of Beacon Hill (which had been electric) back to an old-timey gas-with-mantle. Coal gasification ends shortly thereafter.

In 1971, the Distrigas LNG terminal opened to allow importation of gas during peak (Winter Heating) season, which was always a problem for New England since we live at the far, skinny, "demand" end of every pipeline.

In the 1990s, people switched to gas for heating to avoid oil shocks and because it was cleaner & quieter (no fuel blower or drips, as with oil). IIRC there was occasional talk of a new importation facility. Back in the 2001-era, the big thing was LNG importation security at the Distrigas (Everett) Terminal.

Then came fracked domestic gas and the idea that we had so much cheap US gas that the LNG import terminals should be repurposed for *export* or that native tribes, southcoast industrial properties, or floating offshore piers would supply the best location for an export terminal. (IIRC Louisiana won the fight for LNG liquification, partly because the gas pipelines in New England don't have enough slack capacity)

Boston has not yet gotten its increased transmission supply, so the Distrigas terminal continues to fill a role of importing natural gas (from Trinidad).

And the SJC killed the idea that the electric generating companies could contract with the gas transmission companies to bring increased gas supply for electricity-generation, but pass the costs for a gas pipeline on to electric rate payer--or was the gas rate payer? --the point is that it was a strange gas supply, electric-gen hybrid where it was unclear which ratepayers would benefit (gas or electric or neither) and which should pay for it.

Obviously the electric-generators liked cheap gas, and the pipeline companies didn't care which other people paid for it, but neither, alone, was willing to finance a pipeline.
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Old 09-05-2017, 01:05 PM   #2
Arlington
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Re: Natural Gas (LNG, Pipelines, & Distribution)

Here's the real reason I started this thread:

There's a project going on now where Arlington, Somerville & Medford meet which involves Horizontal Directional Drilling to replace 1000' of 1950s-era gas transmission 24"dia pipeline while breaking the surface only at the endpoints. This allows new gas pipeline to be laid without trenching through the Alewife or Mystic rivers.
1) Dig a starting pit and an ending pit. Insert HDD drill head at starting pit. Steer it underground as it drills toward an exit pit.
2) Once the head gets to the exit pit, tie a section of pipeline to it
3) Pull the entire drilling apparatus back toward the starting pit, disassembling the drill as you go, and pulling the pipeline into the cavity.
4) Once the drill is out, the new pipeline is in place. Tie in new pipe. Fill old pipe with concrete and leave it there.

Article Here (with squinty-but-readable maps)
http://arlington.wickedlocal.com/new...-alewife-brook

Medford's Notice of it:
http://www.medfordma.org/2017/08/29/...e-replacement/

Video Example:
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Old 09-05-2017, 02:32 PM   #3
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Re: Natural Gas (LNG, Pipelines, & Distribution)

The color coding is not explained, but I believe the orange colored-line is the one that just went in service to serve the new gas-powered generating station in Salem.

http://www.masslive.com/news/index.s...cess_nort.html
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Old 09-05-2017, 03:48 PM   #4
stefalarchitect
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Re: Natural Gas (LNG, Pipelines, & Distribution)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Arlington View Post
Here's the real reason I started this thread:

There's a project going on now where Arlington, Somerville & Medford meet which involves Horizontal Directional Drilling to replace 1000' of 1950s-era gas transmission 24"dia pipeline while breaking the surface only at the endpoints. This allows new gas pipeline to be laid without trenching through the Alewife or Mystic rivers.
Not close to Boston, but still in Massachusetts: This past spring I was able to visit a site in Fall River/Somerset just before they were going to pull the pipe. Same story there: A new HDD'd pipe replacing 2 lines from the 1950's under the Taunton River. Really neat stuff. Its been popular in the southern states for a while, and other countries for decades. Just lately has it reached the Northeast. I'm sure we're going to see more projects like these as old lines become outdated.

[For those interested, also check out pipe-bursting. Replaces a line by running a pneumatic hammer or sharp (hydraulically-powered) head through an existing pipe and pulls the new pipe behind it. Cheaper than open-cut or trenchless in some cases, a lot faster, and less disruptive.]
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Old 09-06-2017, 03:54 PM   #5
tangent
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Re: Natural Gas (LNG, Pipelines, & Distribution)

The overall benefits of expanding distribution capacity during a period of abundance of cheap less polluting natural gas should be compelling.

Though I can see some merit to the idea that expansion of capacity should be financed based on the additional revenue from expanded supply and not passed onto existing customers as higher prices. That is double dipping.
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Old 11-13-2017, 01:42 PM   #6
Arlington
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Re: Natural Gas (LNG, Pipelines, & Distribution)

This kind of thing should not surprise me, but it still makes me sad/angry to read that there may have been collusion to constrain natural gas deliveries (and thus drive up price of gas and electricity, and to constrain competing electricity generators from being able to supply electricity at competitive rates).

As in the Flash Boys on wall street, it all starts with phantom orders by parties who don't actually intend to deliver or take delivery. In this case, phantom orders for pipeline capacity would be locked up as if the power generator intended to take delivery of the gas, but then, at the last minute, they'd cancel the order for gas (without penalty, and without anyone being able to take the capacity)
Environmental Defense Fund's paper here:
https://www.edf.org/sites/default/fi...rket-power.pdf

Article here:
Utilities manipulated natural gas supplies, causing artificial shortages, soaring energy prices, study finds
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Old 12-03-2017, 08:54 AM   #7
Joel N. Weber II
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Re: Natural Gas (LNG, Pipelines, & Distribution)

My understanding is that it's always been the case in New England that the gas transmission capacity was paid for by the companies that sell gas to retail customers who burn it to heat buildings, and then when they aren't using that capacity they usually let the electricity generators have it. The electricity generators have explicitly choosen not to pay what it would cost to get guaranteed access to that gas.

The fast start simple cycle gas generators are the ones whose lobbyists should be working to get them better access to the gas: Tesla's batteries will likely soon make the simple cycle gas generators less relevant for dealing with the hour to hour changes in electricity demand, since a combined cycle plant can generate roughly twice as much electricity from a given amount of gas as a simple cycle plant, and Tesla's batteries probably have about a 90% round trip efficiency, but the new Salem combined cycle plant is going to be the only fast start combined cycle gas plant in New England, and the other combined cycle plants may therefore not work well with intermittent availability of gas.

I also think the real key to winter reliability is wind farm construction and construction of transmission lines to Canadian hydropower, not more gas transmission capacity.
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Old 12-03-2017, 02:56 PM   #8
Joel N. Weber II
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Re: Natural Gas (LNG, Pipelines, & Distribution)

https://www.iso-ne.com/static-assets...look_final.pdf describes the electrical generating capacity at risk of natural gas shortages as being more than 4,000MW.

Since some power plants are entirely dependent on the gas pipelines, and others generally have the lowest cost when using the gas pipelines but have the option of switching to oil (or LNG? or does Mystic Station have to always use LNG instead of the pipelines?), I'm wondering if there's any mechanism in place to force the stations than can operate on a more expensive fuel to yield the pipeline capacity to the power plants that require the pipeline to function, or whether we can get situations where a plant that could use a more expensive fuel ends up using the pipeline and thus forces a gas pipeline only plant to not run at all.

It also seems like adding 4,000MW of average output from off shore wind farms (nameplate capacity a bit above 8,000MW) plus 4,000MW of transmission lines to Canada for hydropower plus 4,000MW of rooftop solar is pretty straightforward.
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Old 02-03-2018, 12:53 PM   #9
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Re: Natural Gas (LNG, Pipelines, & Distribution)

My understanding is that there's at least one investor owned utility that provides both natural gas and electricity distribution in Massachusetts that is still promoting conversion to natural gas heating at this point. It would probably be better for the environment if they were pushing electric heat pumps instead; what would it take for regulators to get them to do that, and is there any reason natural gas heating might turn out to be more profitable for them than electric heat pumps?

(Perhaps where people have oil fired heating that circulates hot water that isn't set up for the higher hot water flow rate that would be required for the lower temperatures heat pumps produce, conversion to gas might make sense, but I'm under the impression the existing marketing is not so carefully targeted.)
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Old 02-03-2018, 04:53 PM   #10
jklo
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Re: Natural Gas (LNG, Pipelines, & Distribution)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joel N. Weber II View Post
My understanding is that there's at least one investor owned utility that provides both natural gas and electricity distribution in Massachusetts that is still promoting conversion to natural gas heating at this point. It would probably be better for the environment if they were pushing electric heat pumps instead; what would it take for regulators to get them to do that, and is there any reason natural gas heating might turn out to be more profitable for them than electric heat pumps?
The typical air sourced heat pump starts losing efficiency once you drop below 40 degrees so it's not really suitable here. Ground Sourced remedies that, but those are very expensive to implement and presumably you have to have a ground to source from so I'm not sure if that would work in a multi unit dwelling for instance.
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Old 02-03-2018, 08:27 PM   #11
Joel N. Weber II
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Re: Natural Gas (LNG, Pipelines, & Distribution)

I believe a good air source heat pump at 0F still has a COP better than 2, which means that if you can power it with a combined cycle natural gas plant, the heat pump plus combined cycle natural gas plant is still more efficient than just burning natural gas would be. (If we get aggressive about building wind and solar to power the heat pumps, that's even better.) And I think it's currently the case on the coldest days that a lot of the combined cycle natural gas plants may not be burning gas because the residential buildings that are directly burning natural gas get first dibs on the pipeline capacity ahead of the power plants.

Ground source is most cost effective for bigger buildings (which maybe might include big apartment buildings), but it probably doesn't make sense around Boston for buildings that can be properly insulated.
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Old 02-03-2018, 09:29 PM   #12
Arlington
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Re: Natural Gas (LNG, Pipelines, & Distribution)

Quote:
Originally Posted by jklo View Post
The typical air sourced heat pump starts losing efficiency once you drop below 40 degrees so it's not really suitable here.
While true for many decades, this is becoming less the case as new generation of cold climate Air Source Heat Pumps (ccASHP) have been developed that are still efficient (an expert I know says, that as a practical matter you can now expect to run your heat pump when it is in the 20Fs outside) and NEEP.org is working to get all units to publish numbers for how well they'd work at 17F or even 5F.

http://www.neep.org/initiatives/high...urce-heat-pump

The implication for gas is that we'll see more people installing heat pumps that cover the whole cooling season efficiently, and boost their payback by covering most of Oct/Nov/Dec and March/April/May, leaving the old fossil burner kicking in only during the deepest periods of cold, which may be as narrow as "nighttime in Jan/Feb"

Electric Utilities should be all over this, and if it did happen, it would actually cut residential (and overall) gas consumption every time gas was burned to make electricity to power a ccASHP.
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