Natural gas pipeline considered for tri-state region

Natural gas pipeline considered for tri-state region

May 13th, 2012 by Ben Benton in News

Renaissance Gas Transmission seeks to build a high-volume natural gas pipeline acros South Central Tennessee through North Alabama and Northwest Georgia on its way to Atlanta.

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LANDOWNERS

Renaissance Gas Transmission will send letters to landowners along the proposed routing corridor informing them of the project and asking permission to survey areas of their properties, according to company officials. The company will "seek opportunities to discuss the project directly with each landowner in small face-to-face discussions and information meetings," officials said in a prepared statement. Stakeholder meetings could begin as soon as this summer to identify project-related issues. The discussions will allow Renaissance to address concerns before it files its applications with federal and state agencies.

A high-volume natural gas pipeline could wind across a 230-mile gap from South Central Tennessee through North Alabama and Northwest Georgia on its way to link with a pipeline northeast of Atlanta.

Officials with Houston, Texas-based Spectra Energy Corp. say that, if a green light follows assessments by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and other federal, state and local authorities, the proposed pipeline will connect directly the company's Texas Eastern system in Columbia, Tenn., to the Transco Interstate pipeline system near Lawrenceville, Ga.

The pipeline's capacity is projected at 1.25 billion cubic feet per day, and it could be operational by mid-2016, Spectra Energy spokeswoman Andrea Grover said.

The project is "still in the early development stage," she said, and the company recently did a study to see if there's any interest in the pipeline project from the natural gas industry.

Spectra Energy is working to firm up agreements with "numerous companies" between Columbia and Lawrenceville, she said, and those customers will be announced after the agreements are formalized.

The company also is trying to work out an agreement with AGL Resources, the parent company of Chattanooga Gas Co. and Atlanta Gas Light Co.

Spectra has "executed a nonbinding letter of intent with AGL Resources to explore a joint business arrangement and transportation service options for the local distribution companies owned by AGL Resources that operate near the proposed pipeline," Grover said.

Spectra officials describe the new pipeline as an "open access pipeline," meaning anyone who asks for inclusion can negotiate terms with the company.

Officials declined to identify the specific route or even the counties possibly along the pipeline's path. However, officials said the route probably would not come near the Chattanooga metro area.

Horace Clemmons, a commissioner in Jackson County, Ala., said the pipeline could be an economic boon for his county, and he has called on the Tennessee Valley Authority to look at the idea of converting its Widows Creek power plant from coal to natural gas.

A conversion of Widows Creek "would ensure that we do not lose jobs from a plant shutdown and it would add construction jobs," Clemmons wrote in a recent letter to TVA public relations liaison Jason Harper.

Clemmons said gas-powered electricity production could enhance current plans for a nuclear facility at the Bellefonte plant in Hollywood, Ala., by getting power production up and running sooner and allowing more time for the nuclear project.

He said he knew of no naysayers to the pipeline, but opponents might emerge from the Bridgeport area, where a natural gas explosion in January 1999 killed three people and injured seven.

According to newspaper archives, the blast leveled three buildings downtown and shattered windows more than a mile away. The National Transportation Safety Board said after the blast that a gas feeder line to a building used by Boy Scouts was separated in two places, according to newspaper archives.

Even so, "I have fewer concerns about a gas pipeline coming through than I do with Browns Ferry, Bellefonte and Watts Bar," Clemmons said. In the event of a nuclear accident, "the consequences are significantly worse than they would be with a gas pipeline," he said.

TVA has started trimming jobs as part of its "diet and exercise plan" in response to a losing first quarter of the year and projected losses for the second. The plan also includes reductions in capital projects, including work to finish the Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant.

TVA spokesman Mike Bradley said last week that the federal utility is "aware" of the proposed gas line and TVA officials have met with the company.

"TVA currently has no plans to locate a combined-cycle gas plant in Jackson County," Bradley said, adding that evaluation of options will continue.

In a April 11 letter to Clemmons in response to his ideas for gas-fired power generation, TVA Executive Vice President and Chief Generation Officer Kimberly Greene said the agency's Integrated Resource Plan recommended pursuing "various long-term power supply options" and that "a key part of this evaluation is the timing and location of additional natural gas-fired assets to the generation portfolio."

Greene states in the letter that other options created by a new pipeline are included in TVA's overall assessment.