Five years after TransCanada applied for a permit for its controversial Keystone XL pipeline, oil and natural gas pipeline projects are underway throughout the country.
Keystone has been delayed because U.S. State Department approval is needed for the 10 feet of pipe that would cross the border with Canada. Pipeline projects that remain entirely inside the United States need no such approval and are underway from North Dakota to the Gulf Coast and from California to New York.
While most of the industry’s attention over the past five years has been focused on oil, companies still are finding new sources of natural gas and are turning to new pipes to transport that fuel from the well to the customers.
Bitterly cold weather in recent weeks has led to surging demand and rising prices, refocusing the country’s attention on natural gas.
Even without this year’s winter weather, domestic natural gas supplies are expected to grow 56 percent between 2012 and 2040, according the the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s 2014 annual energy outlook.
Thousands of miles of pipe are needed to service that new production.
More than 2,900 miles of new natural gas pipelines with a capacity of about 22 million dekatherms per day is expected online by 2018, according to SNL Energy.
About 5.6 million dekatherms of capacity is expected to be operational by the end of this year. A dekatherm represents the amount of heat energy released from burning roughly 1,000 cubic feet of natural gas.
Another 1,773 miles of pipelines with a capacity of about 7.7 million dekatherms are planned, but without a scheduled in-service date.
Twelve natural gas pipeline projects are in advanced development or under construction, according to SNL Energy.
The second-largest on that list is the Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline, a 1 million dekatherm per day pipeline jointly owned by Tulsa-based Williams Cos. Inc. and Calgary-based Veresen Inc. that would move natural gas 230 miles across southern Oregon.
Along with new pipeline capacity, the country’s natural gas industry also is adding to its storage ability.
The country’s appetite for natural gas has increased steadily over the past few years, led by an increased use in electricity generation and a growing popularity as a home heating fuel, particularly in the Northeast.
About 405 dekatherms of new storage capacity is expected online by 2018, according to SNL Energy. Another 258 million dekatherms of storage capacity is planned, but does not yet have a confirmed in-service date. About 61 percent of that is considered to be in advanced development.
The country’s current working storage capacity is about 4.4 billion dekatherms.
The more than 10 percent boost in storage stocks promises to allow supply and demand to grow while minimizing seasonal price swings.