Houston — Facing a potential shortfall in natural gas supplies due to certain factors, including regulatory holdups of a key interstate pipeline project, gas utility National Grid is planning to use trucked shipments to ensure supplies to customers in New York and New England during the coldest parts of winter.
The Rhode Island Energy Facility Siting Board on November 6 approved the utility company's request for a temporary waiver from the licensing requirement of the Energy Facility Siting Act to operate a temporary LNG vaporization facility on a site in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, which National Grid had previously used for that purpose.
The plans call for National Grid to truck in LNG to the site, where it will be vaporized and injected into the local gas distribution system to provide an emergency backup gas supply to Aquidneck Island. The project will only be on the site from December 1 through March 31 and will only be mobilized when it is required to back up the gas supply to the island, the utility said in its waiver request.
National Grid has announced similar plans to truck in compressed natural gas to serve as backup supplies of gas during peak usage periods in New York state. The utility contends it needs to take those steps to ensure New York customers have adequate access to supplies because of state regulators in New York and New Jersey having slowed the progress of the 37-mile Northeast Supply Enhancement project, which is designed to bring 400 MMcf/d of incremental gas supply into New York City and Long Island.
"We've been waiting for the approvals for the NESE supply line," Ross Turrini, group chief engineer for gas for National Grid in New York, said in an interview. "We've got a shortfall in peak-hour supply; we're short approximately 21 Dt/hour at the peak."
Turrini said the company plans to use two temporary CNG stations on Long Island to handle gas demand on peak demand days. Last winter the utility operated a single CNG station in Glenwood on Long Island.
"This winter, we're standing up a second portable CNG station, in Riverhead on Long Island and between the two stations we'll be able to produce 21 dekatherms per hour of natural gas and inject it into our system to make sure that we have adequate peak-day supply," he said.
In May, citing the potential of supply shortfalls, National Grid declared a moratorium on new gas hookups in its downstate New York region. This led to a confrontation with New York state officials, with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo threatening to withdraw the utility's license to operate.
In October, National Grid agreed to re-connect nearly 1,000 natural gas customers whose service had been shut off in four downstate New York counties in response to an order by the New York State Public Service Commission.
SITE APPROVED FOR TEMPORARY LNG FACILITY
In Rhode Island, the utility company hopes its temporary LNG vaporization facility will help it avert weather-related emergencies in the state. This includes the one that occurred in January, when 7,500 customers on Aquidneck Island lost gas supplies during an extended cold snap.
Regulators approved the use of a five-acre site, owned in fee by the company, which was formerly used as a propane tank site that supplied the Aquidneck Island propane distribution system.
After the propane tanks were removed from the site in 2014, it remained vacant until last spring, when National Grid installed a temporary vaporization facility on the property as an emergency backup to the distribution system during a scheduled inspection on one of the interstate transmission pipeline system that supplies gas to the island.
After the inspection was completed later that summer, the company removed the equipment and the property was restored to its former condition and left vacant.
In January, National Grid again installed the temporary vaporization facility to supply the island "following distribution outages caused by low transmission supply from the company's natural gas supplier," according to the company's filing.
NAVAL BASE USED AS LNG SITE IN PAST
Prior to 2018, National Grid had used a site within the Newport naval base when a temporary portable vaporization facility was needed to back up the gas supply to the island. However, the company said that because of the challenges of operating on an active military base, it preferred the Portsmouth location.
In its application for the waiver, the company said it expected transmission system constraints during the next four winters.
"The company has initiated a plan to contract for gas supply, which is expected to resolve the gas supply constraint within the next five years," National Grid said.
In an interview Thursday, Todd Bianco, coordinator for Energy Facility Siting Board, said that the LNG would be transported to the site by trucks that would be sited at the facility.
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