Monthly Archives: October 2017

Richard Meyer Natural Gas Market Indicators: October 30, 2017

Supplies are increasing. Record levels of production are flowing into the market have more than offset slight declines in Canadian imports. Storage inventories are robust even though totals are slightly below the all-time highs set in 2016. December prices currently trade at $3.00 per MMBtu. Now we wait for the first cold snap to see how the market reacts. Winter is coming.

Visit this link to download the full Natural Gas Market Indicators report. Topics covered in this week’s report include: Reported Prices, Weather, Working Gas in Underground Storage, Natural Gas Production, Shale Gas, Rig Counts, Pipeline Imports and Exports, and LNG Markets.

Please direct questions and comments to Chris McGill at cmcgill@aga.org or Richard Meyer at rmeyer@aga.org.

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Jake Rubin 5th Anniversary of Hurricane Sandy

Photo Courtesy: NJNG

Photo Courtesy: NJNG

Five years ago today, high winds, tidal surges and flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy ravaged part of the Northeast United States. Just days after the storm, natural gas utilities began work in the bitter cold to restore gas service to thousands of homes and businesses ahead of the threat of a quickly approaching nor’easter. More than 300 utility workers that left the comforts of their homes in the south, mid-west and Canada to assist in recovery efforts.

Three years later, the American Gas Association (AGA) made this video to honor those that traveled so far to provide much-needed assistance. We told the stories of teams from Alliant Energy in Iowa and Wisconsin that drove to the affected area and New Jersey Natural Gas which provides safe, reliable natural gas to half a million customers in parts of New Jersey that saw massive devastation from Hurricane Sandy.

AGA closely monitored the impacts of recent Hurricanes like Harvey and Irma and continue to receive regular updates from government and our member companies about the effects of Hurricane Maria and other natural disasters that have touched our nation. Our thoughts are with all those who have been impacted by the destruction these natural disasters have caused.

Unlike that fateful day in 2012, AGA’s Mutual Assistance Program has not been activated over the past few months. Natural gas utilities have done a tremendous job keeping their systems intact and running properly. It is incredibly rare for natural gas customers in the United States to lose service and their utilities respond swiftly and effectively if they do.

We know that there is still a lot of work to do to before homes and businesses in areas recently hit by hurricanes feel like they are back to normal. AGA will continue to seek ways to assist our members and their customers as recovery efforts continue.

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Richard Meyer The Tech Sector’s Natural Gas Play

Two household names in the technology world are integrating natural gas technology and infrastructure into their clean energy plans.

First up is the Microsoft Corporation, which announced that it is constructing a first-of-its-kind natural gas datacenter. In partnership with McKinstry and Cummins, the tech giant will install a 20-rack datacenter in Seattle, WA that utilizes natural gas fuel cells. The company says this approach could transform how it powers its servers.

On the company’s blog, Christian Belady, General Manager, and Sean James, Principal, Microsoft Cloud Infrastructure and Operations, describe the benefits:

“This stark and simple design significantly reduces the amount of energy lost in power generation, transmission and power conversion. Right now, datacenters are powered by the electrical grid, which flows from a power plant, through multiple substations and transmission lines, and then must be converted into the right voltage for a datacenter before we can use it. With fuel cells powered directly from the natural gas line, we cut out all those steps, and remove the energy losses that occur through this long transmission process as seen below.”

The benefits also extend to energy reliability and resiliency. Belady and James continue:

“With fewer pieces in the supply chain, there are fewer potential points of failure. That helps improve the reliability of our power supply and our datacenters. And, of course, with this simplification comes a reduction in cost. Eliminating electrical distribution, power conditioning, and backup infrastructure makes a datacenter easier and less expensive to build, operate and manage.”

Make sure to keep an eye on this pilot project.

Next up is Apple, which is putting the finishing touches on its new corporate headquarters in Cupertino, CA.

Apple has announced that its new campus, the 175-acre Apple Park, is to be run on 100 percent renewable energy.

How exactly does the company accomplish this? The new campus will feature on-site rooftop solar and a mix of offsite purchases and credits. However, a closer examination of its plans shows that natural gas infrastructure is how Apple gets to 100 percent.

The company will utilize four megawatts of baseload biogas fuel cells to power its facilities. The efficient on-site generators will provide reliable power to its office, datacenters and energy-intensive research and development facilities while remaining carbon neutral.

The fuel cells also work as a natural pairing with the on-site 17-megawatt rooftop solar installation, which together will provide 75 percent of the facilities’ total electricity needs.

Apple’s Environmental Impact Report documents describe how the fuel cells will be powered:

“Directed biogas will be delivered by an off-site renewable biogas producer by means of the existing natural gas pipeline. As with electricity, there is no means of ensuring the actual molecules of biogas are consumed at the customer’s site. Thus, the gas may not be physically delivered to the site, as the biogas may actually be utilized at another location along the pipeline route (requiring the use of natural gas on the project site).”

In other words, Apple will utilize the existing natural gas utility distribution system to power its on-site fuel cells but will purchase biogas credits to reach its renewables goal.

Both projects offer unique insights into different ways that large companies are trying to meet their environmental goals while maintaining energy reliability. In both cases, on-site natural gas provides an energy backbone onto which renewables are integrated. I, for one, will be watching how both projects progress with interest.

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