Duke Energy: Controversial gas pipeline will lower NC power bills

Posted October 20, 2015

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— A proposed natural gas pipeline has caused a lot of controversy among landowners and communities along the projected path, but Duke Energy officials said Tuesday that the pipeline will mean lower energy costs for North Carolina consumers.

The $5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which Duke, Piedmont Natural Gas and Dominion Energy want to build, would bring natural gas produced by hydraulic fracturing in Pennsylvania and West Virginia to power plants in Virginia and North Carolina. The partners have filed the paperwork for the necessary federal permits for the pipeline.

Duke Vice President Swati Daji, who buys fuel for power plants in six states, said Tuesday that natural gas used to be so expensive that it was used only to meet high demand.

"Since 2008, 2009, once we figured out this country has so much natural gas, our dependence on other sources of fuel has gone down," Daji said.

Duke now uses more natural gas than coal, retiring many of its older coal-fired power plants and replacing them with units that burn natural gas to power turbines.

At the H.F. Lee Energy Complex near Goldsboro, gas-fired units have been operating here since 2012, but the gas supply isn't enough to operate the whole plant economically.

When demand for gas goes up in cold weather, plant manger Rick Grant said generation actually declines. Only two of four units were running Tuesday.

Although natural gas produces 50 to 90 percent less smog-causing pollution, Grant said that, with only one pipeline in the western part of the state to supply it, prices can be unstable.

"We're expecting ACP to come in at considerably less than what we're paying now," he said. "It'd be firm gas – a more dependable supply and at a better cost for our customers."

Duke has a big stake in the pipeline project, but so do communities along the proposed path. Many are fighting it, citing safety concerns.

Daji said she thinks those worries are overstated.

"While nothing is riskless, we really feel very comfortable that there have been lots of improvements in terms of safety that one shouldn't be concerned about it," she said.

Some environmental groups also oppose the pipeline and to Duke's growing reliance on natural gas. They say the utility should focus on developing renewable energy sources instead.

Daji said the two aren't mutually exclusive, and Duke is working to diversify its portfolio across the board.


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  • Tom Laurence Oct 21, 2015
    user avatar

    Every type of fuel, at the beginning of its use, was scrutinized and the negativity was highlighted until safe extraction and usage became the norm. If this will help us become more energy efficient (versus relying on so much electricity and coal), I'm for it - as long as its done safely.

  • Russell Chapman Oct 21, 2015
    user avatar

    Natural gas isn't as clean as people claim. Natural gas contains methane. A significant amount of methane escapes into the atmosphere from natural gas wells and pipelines. Methane is one of the major greenhouse gases that trap heat in the earth’s atmosphere.
    Enough methane escapes that energy producing companies monitor the release not only for safety reasons, but to measure the loss of actual fuel not reaching its destination. This loss is essentially fuel that's paid for, but evaporates before they can use it.

  • John McCray Oct 21, 2015
    user avatar

    Here is a reference for the claim regarding manufacturers., I wouldn't be surprised if it were to be used as a way to get more NG to export terminals.

  • John McCray Oct 21, 2015
    user avatar

    Daji is BSing the public when he claims that we didn't figure out that our country had large deposits of natural gas until 2008. The largest development in Natural Gas production was the development of fracking and horizontal drilling technology, allowing for the first substantial increase in production since the 1970's. Up until then, energy producers were happy to sit back and utilize the easily procured coal reserves for an energy source.

    Companies don't ever spend money on infrastructure to reduce cost os their product. They would go out of business, this is about increasing profitability.

    Natural gas pipelines were originally built to move NG from the Gulf Coast to the rest of the country, now, with the advent of shale gas, pipeline flow in this part of the country moves in the opposite direction, outward from the Appalachian region. This is really about brining in a large supply of natural gas for manufacturers.

  • John Kramer Oct 21, 2015
    user avatar

    Kudos to Duke Energy for doing this. They are a really well run utility.

  • Jeff Herring Oct 20, 2015
    user avatar

    This pipeline is just the beginning - there will be additional pipelines built along the same route later. First, they let us believe this thing was for economic development, now they tell the truth that it's just for their own power plants. Economic development may never come, especially with republicans in power.

  • Jackson Smith Oct 20, 2015
    user avatar

    Not dumping coal ash in the rivers and all over the state would save a bunch of money also.