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Yemen attacks disrupt LNG supplies in Mass.

Associated Press Modified: May 4, 2012 at 8:45 pm •  Published: May 4, 2012
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BOSTON (AP) — Electricity grid managers are preparing for possible spring and summer power disruptions in the Boston area after attacks in Yemen destroyed a pipeline and cut back the local supply of liquefied natural gas.

LNG from Yemen is a tiny percentage of the abundant natural gas supplies in the U.S., but certain power generators in the Boston area and northeastern Massachusetts depend on it.

If power demand spikes or another local generator unexpectedly shuts down in May or June, the regional grid's ability to reliably produce electricity will be at risk, according to grid operator ISO New England.

"Because of this uncertainty, we've taken different steps to prepare to manage the power grid ... during the next few months," said ISO New England spokeswoman Ellen Foley.

Foley said the steps include suspending maintenance on transmission lines to keep them available and working with power generators to manage their LNG supply. Such generators might sometimes opt out of the daily power market so they're not operating continuously.

Also, ISO-New England could activate a program under which certain customers agree to reduce electricity use on request — such as by turning down lights and using less air conditioning — in return for payments.

"It's just as good as turning on a generator to produce supply," Foley said. "We're just reducing consumer demand."

Natural gas is moved by pipeline in gas form, or it can be liquefied, which enables producers to fit far greater quantities in far smaller spaces and transport it by tanker or truck.

Fueled by shale gas production, domestic supplies of natural gas are remarkably abundant. Today, the country is storing more than ever, and even debating exporting its own LNG, said Bruce McDowell, director of policy analysis at the American Gas Association.

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