This article originally appeared on the SXSW Eco website as a special guest blog post by AGA Vice President of Policy Strategy Kathryn Clay.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the pipeline network that carries natural gas to more than 177 million Americans is the safest energy delivery system in the nation. Even with the historically excellent performance of our distribution network, safety is our top priority and natural gas utilities remain vigilant and committed to continually upgrading this crucial infrastructure. Natural gas utilities are regulated by state utility commissions which are charged with balancing the need for investments in infrastructure to provide safe and reliable service with ensuring affordable energy bills for customers and fair returns on equity that will attract capital at reasonable costs.
Over the course of the last three decades, natural gas utilities have installed modern plastic pipes at a rate of 30,000 miles per year and installed catholically protected coated steel mains at 1,500 miles per year, both connecting new customers and upgrading existing pipeline infrastructure. Pipes that may no longer be fit for service are being replaced with ones made from more modern materials. This concerted effort by America’s natural gas utilities to upgrade and modernize our nation’s pipeline network to enhance safety has contributed to a declining trend in emissions from natural gas distribution systems.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 19th Annual Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks released in April 2014, only 0.24 percent of produced natural gas is emitted from the delivery systems operated by local natural gas utilities. In fact, natural gas emissions from utility-owned distribution systems have dropped 22 percent since 1990. Moreover, nearly 90 percent of the emissions declines from distribution systems since that year are due to pipeline replacements.
The effort to modernize infrastructure by replacing pipe no longer fit for service will continue to grow. Of the 38 states that have accelerated infrastructure replacement mechanisms, 9 states and the District of Columbia were approved in the past two years. As those programs ramp up, we will see more investment in enhancing safety and further emissions declines.
Total natural gas supply in the United States (domestic production less natural gas liquids extraction and other shrink, plus net imports from Canada and very minor imports of LNG) has been running at about 74-75 Bcf per day in September with total demand (consumption) in the high 50s to low 60s, according to Bentek Energy.
That means that double digit volumes of natural gas have been available for underground storage injections – and that trend has continued for the first half of September. Sustaining that trend could push underground working gas inventories to about 3.5 Tcf to start the winter heating season. With domestic production running 4 Bcf per day higher than this time last year, that adds up to a strong supply position entering the winter.
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.
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Monday, August 11, marks the Common Ground Alliance (CGA)’s National 811 Day to promote safe digging awareness and the Call Before You Dig campaign. A call to 811, which should be done a few days before beginning construction projects, planting or undertaking any kind of digging activity, connects you to a local One Call Center which gathers information about the project and alerts your local utility company. Crews then locate the utility lines near the planned project and make sure they are properly marked so you can be sure to avoid them. The process is fast, simple and free.
Excavation damage continues to be the leading cause of pipeline incidents in the United States, though improvement is being made thanks to outreach efforts on the part of natural gas utilities, industry leaders and other stakeholders. This past spring, millions of people were introduced to Call 811 when CGA members sponsored the jockey and horse team of Victor Espinoza and California Chrome during the race for the Triple Crown. Espinoza donned the Call 811 logo on the side and back of his pants, as well as his turtleneck, riding boots and the ball cap he wore before and after each race. Espinoza also spread the important safety message on his official Twitter page and his many TV appearances. The day after the third and final face, the Belmont Stakes, visits to Call811.com were up 334 percent and web search was up 596 percent.
AGA will be helping to spread safe digging awareness on Call 811 Day through social media and blog posts on True Blue Natural Gas.
Find out what might be going on in your area to mark 811 Day by checking in with CGA or your local natural gas utility. And don’t for get to make the 811 Promise and tell your family, friends and neighbors.
If you’re a utility, let us know what you have planned in the comments section below and we may feature your activities in an upcoming post. In the meantime, make sure to urge your customers to make the 811 Promise.
Posted in 811, community, energy, Natural Gas, safety
Tagged 811 Day, Call 811, Call Before You Dig, CGA, Common Ground Alliance, Safe Digging, safety
As the energy industry workforce continues to mature, a large number of employees are set to retire in the next five to 10 years. While efforts are underway to recruit and train younger replacements for these workers, utilities must plan for that transition and retain know-how.
The cover story for the August/September issue of American Gas magazine, titled “The Aging Workforce,” addresses several issues facing the industry as much of their workforce transitions to retirement and new employees enter the workforce. In this article several experts weigh in on topics including workforce planning, knowledge transfer and pension obligations.
While many utilities are using workforce analytics to understand when individuals are going to retire, they face the challenge of capturing knowledge and sharing it with future employees. Ken Mall with EDSI Consulting, a workforce development, customized training and consulting company, provides some basic steps all organizations should consider in defining their knowledge management priorities and creating a plan to meet those future needs.
Royce Kosoff, a senior consulting actuary with Towers Watson addresses the growing pension obligations utilities are facing. With more than one-third of U.S. utilities slowing the growth by moving new employees to 401K plans, some have taken an additional step of freezing the accruals for employees. Kosoff shares other steps to reduce the current risk exposure of pension plans.
To read the full article, click here. To see more from the August/September issue of the magazine, click here.