August, 2014 – In last month’s post, we discussed the apparent transition toward natural gas as the preferred fuel choice for new power plants in NC. As we discussed, that transition is driven primarily by the relative abundance of natural gas from shale in places like Pennsylvania.
North Carolina’s access to natural gas is currently provided by the Transco interstate pipeline that runs northward from Texas to New York. Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas recently announced plans to build a second, $4 billion, 427 mile natural gas pipeline that runs southward from Pennsylvania to eastern North Carolina. We understand that some pipeline companies are already contacting property owners (including some Wake Electric members) along multiple possible routes.
The pipeline is scheduled to be in service by 2018 and will have a capacity of about 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. To give the project a sense of scale, 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day could generate 127 million kWh per day. That’s about the amount of electricity that Wake Electric members use over a two month period from all generation sources.
Over the next ten to fifteen years, as many of the remaining older coal-fired power plants in North Carolina approach the end of their useful life, it appears that Duke Energy is planning to replace them primarily with new natural gas-fired units. Not only does it solve some long-term environmental concerns, such as coal ash disposal, but it also helps to address new EPA rules on carbon dioxide emissions.
We plan to discuss the new EPA rules in a series of future posts.