Duke Energy, partners to build $5B gas pipeline from WV to NC

Posted September 2, 2014 8:32 a.m. EDT
Updated September 2, 2014 6:22 p.m. EDT

— Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas have selected Virginia-based Dominion to build a massive natural gas pipeline to eastern North Carolina from West Virginia.

The 550-mile "Atlantic Coast Pipeline" project, as it is being called, will cost as much as $5 billion.

The 42-inch pipeline in West Virginia and Virginia and the 36-inch pipeline in North Carolina – officials said the North Carolina segment will be entirely underground – will be 45 percent owned by Dominion, 40 percent by Duke, 10 percent by Piedmont and 5 percent by AGL Resources.

The project would provide North Carolina with a second gas pipeline. The first transports natural gas from the Gulf Coast into western and central portions of the state.

"To enhance reliability and energy security, Duke Energy’s and Piedmont’s solicitation sought proposals for a new, second natural gas pipeline that would transport additional large-scale supplies – from different sources – into the state," the companies said in a joint statement.

The natural gas will come from the Utica and Marcellus shale basins in West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

"You need energy sources that meet peak demand needs of commercial and industrial customers. We're not just talking about residential customers here," said Gov. Pat McCrory, a former Duke manager.

"Having greater availability means, when demand is at its highest, we can insulate our customers from some of these price spikes you sometimes see, as we did during the polar vortex back in the winter," Duke spokesman Jeff Brooks said.

McCrory emphasized the economic impact of the project, saying pipeline construction would create about 740 jobs and operations would require 52 workers. His office estimated a $680 million boost to the state economy from the pipeline.

"We've lost some companies in the past because of our lack of access to natural gas and because of the high cost of power – or the higher cost of power in this part of the state than other parts of the state – and that's being corrected now, and that's great news," he said.

The pipeline, which is expected to be operational in late 2018, still needs to be approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Dominion is expected to seek approval by 2016.

Duke is increasing its reliance on natural gas to power its generator plants as it shifts away from coal. It now operates five natural gas-powered facilities in North Carolina. Another will open in South Carolina in 2017.

“Natural gas is increasingly important for advanced electricity generation, contributing to significantly lower greenhouse gas and other emissions. The project will also provide more reliable access to new sources of natural gas, keeping consumers’ energy costs down – even during the coldest and hottest weather,” the pipeline owners said in a statement.