CLARINGTON - Natural gas from the Utica and Marcellus shale formations may fire some American Electric Power plants across eastern Ohio, via a new pipeline network.
"One of the areas of fastest growing demand is natural gas-fired power generation, as facilities either switch to cleaner-burning natural gas or are built to run on it," said Wendy K. Olson, spokeswoman for Spectra Energy Corp., the Houston, Texas-based pipeline developer.
Spectra announced its intention to build the new pipeline - capable of transporting 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas each day - Wednesday. At the same time, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released its report that will likely lead to the closure of many coal-fired power plants across the county, including AEP's Kammer Plant in Marshall County. AEP serves much of the Upper Ohio Valley, except Hancock, Brooke, Wetzel and Tyler counties.
Natural gas "is 45 percent cleaner than coal and 30 percent cleaner than fuel oil. It's efficient and reliable. And now with the abundance of supply being brought online thanks to developing shale plays, it's now more affordable than ever," added Olson.
Olson said the proposed pipeline would originate in Carroll County, Ohio, which lies to the north of Cadiz in Harrison County and west of East Liverpool in Columbiana County. This north-south running line would wind through Harrison and Belmont counties, before intersecting with the east-west running Texas Eastern pipeline near Clarington.
The pipeline will only be built if Spectra receives additional supply commitments, but Olson said the line's projected in-service date is November 2014.
"As environmental demands increase for cleaner power generation, natural gas is a fuel of choice to meet these needs - and it's a domestically abundant resource that helps increase our energy independence and bring jobs and revenue to our local communities," she added.
AEP spokeswoman Melissa McHenry said her company committed to use about 10 percent of the pipeline's supply capacity, which would equal roughly 100 million cubic feet of gas per day. She said the gas would travel to the company's power plants that already run on natural gas. These AEP plants include:
McHenry emphasized the planned pipeline is still in its very early stages, but said AEP is optimistic about the possibilities.
Bill Yardley, group vice president of Spectra Energy Transmission, Northeast, is upbeat about the project.
"At a time when there is growing environmental need for cleaner power generation, this new infrastructure will deliver clean, affordable and much-needed energy to Ohio, the Midwest and South," he said.
Chesapeake Energy, which holds about 1.5 million net acres in the Utica play, is pursuing capacity on the Spectra pipeline as well.
"Chesapeake has made a preliminary agreement to negotiate for the transportation of a yet-to-be-determined volume of natural gas through the pipeline, but will not make a capital investment in the project," said Chesapeake spokesman Pete Kenworthy. "Having access to multiple markets is beneficial for the development of the Utica."