Expansion Pipeline Projects Not Expected to Bring Price Relief to New England…This Year

This winter, multiple pipeline expansion projects are expected to begin service in the Marcellus Shale.  The expansion projects will increase natural gas takeaway capacity from the Appalachian Basin, where the past two years production has increased significantly.  Focused primarily on trasportation to the New York/New Jersey and Mid-Atlantic regions, these new projects would have a limited benefit for consumers in New England.  Despite the increase in natural gas arriving in the region, price spikes during peak winter demand periods don’t seem to going anywhere.



The expansion projects would add at least 3.5 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) of additional capacity to New York/New Jersey and Mid-Atlantic markets, and have expected in-service dates between 2013 and 2015.  More than 2.0 Bcf/d of expansions are expected to be in service for this winter alone.  The New York-New jersey Expansion project on a portion of Spectra Energy’s Texas Eastern Transmission Company pipeline from Linden, New Jersey to Manhattan, New York, is the largest of these projects at 0.78 Bcf/d.  The Federal Energy Regulatory Agency (FERC) announced the start date for initial service of these expansions on October 17, 2013.

Despite the approval by FERC for the initial service to begin, consumers in New England would not see a significant benefit from the expansions until 2016.

The Algonquin Gas Transmission (AGT) pipeline, which takes gas from the Marcellus and other sources to consumers in New England, has traditionally operated at near full capacity during periods of peak winter demand.  The next planned expansion on AGT is the Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) project which would enable the pipeline to flow north an additional 0.42 Bcf/d of gas received at its interconnect with Millennium Pipeline in Ramapo, New York.  The target in-service date for the AIM Project is November 1, 2016. – Mike Ford, Today in Energy, Marcellus natural gas pipeline project to primarily benefit New York and New Jersey, EIA, Oct. 30, 2013

Market Prices of natural gas (see graph from EIA) reflect the difference in construction activity for New York and New England Markets.  When compared to the nationwide benchmark price for gas purchased (Henry Hub in Erath, Louisana), monthly forward prices for gas purchased at AGT continue to spike in winter months.  However, the forward price at the Transco Zone 6-New York (TZZ6-NY) trading hub is similar to the Henry Hub forward price.




Several additional projects are expected to increase the takeaway capacity of natural gas out of Marcellus Shale this winter to consumers in New York/New Jersey and Mid-Atlantic regions, but these expansion projects experienced delays that set back the service dates.



Americans Don’t Grasp Energy Issues

With a wealth of information at our fingertips, I should be astonished about the lack of information most Americans have about relevant energy issues. Unfortunately, yesterday’s article on Politico.com wasn’t nearly as surprising as I’d like it to be.  The average American doesn’t know what’s going on in the energy sector.  Miley Cyrus garners more attention on the major news networks than…the news.

Politico’s article discusses the recent polls that show that while debates surrounding energy get heated in the capital, many people don’t even know the large trends in the energy industry, much less the details of the cost or even the source of the energy in the U.S.

“It’s a no-brainer – the more people understand where energy comes from, where it goes and how energy markets work, the better they can develop informed views on energy-related policies and controversies like Keystone XL, hydraulic fracturing or climate change,” said Margot Anderson, executive director of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Energy Project”. – Polls show energy doesn’t spark Americans’ interest, Politico.com, Oct. 28 2013

As a matter of fact, recent polls show that a large majority believe that Saudi Arabia is the United States largest oil supplier. (Hint: That’s not right.  It is Canada.)  That isn’t the only place that their knowledge is a bit…lacking.  They, mostly, don’t realize that U.S. energy production is on the rise either.  When it comes to the big energy questions there are some…inconsistencies.  Polls show that they want more natural gas production.  They see it as a cleaner source of energy, but they hate fracking.  The dots aren’t connecting the U.S. gas boom with the method used for extracting the natural gas.

The University of Texas at Austin did a poll recently and it found that a year ago 21 percent of Americans said that they read, saw , or heard about energy issues daily.  That’s down to only 14 percent this year.  Pew Research Center did a poll in September, and found that only 48 percent knew that the United States has seen a rise in energy production in recent years.  Only 34 percent knew that could be attributed to oil and gas production.

Those of us in the industry already know that the lack of knowledge makes any discussion challenging.

“That’s troubling because people on any side of the debate can say anything, and if folks don’t know the reality, they accept it,” John Felmy, chief economist at the American Petroleum Institute said, ” And that’s one of the reasons why we spend so much time in advertising and educational outreach.” – Polls show energy doesn’t spark Americans’ interest, Politico.com, Oct. 28 2013

People still have strong opinions on energy, regardless of their tenuous grasp of the facts.

The oil and gas industry ranked dead last in a Gallup popularity contest in August 2012.  Oil companies have been the target for high gasoline prices since the 1970’s, right along with the president.  In March 2012, a Washinton Post/ABC News poll found that 65 percent disapproved of the handling of gasoline prices by President Obama.  This was when the news media were calling out predictions that drivers would be paying $4 to $6 a gallon by that summer, incorrectly.  Those ratings weren’t as bad as former President George W. Bush in the polls in 2005 and 2006, however.

“The president doesn’t have the magic button that can raise or lower gas prices,” said Avery Ash, manager of regulatory affairs at AAA.

Gas prices are controlled by a global market.  That market is affected by supply and demand, economic volatility, unrest in the Middle East…sound familiar?  These and other factors are out of the control of any one person, even the president.

Americans know that they don’t like fracking, but do they know what it is?  Polls indicate, no.  However, they do want to see more natural gas produced.  The University of Texas at Austin’s survey found that 40 percent of people were familiar with hydraulic fracturing, but only 38 percent of those support its use.  In the September Pew Research survey, they found that that opposition had grown from 38 percent in March to 49 percent in September.

The University of Texas study did find that 57 percent believe natural gas helps lower carbon dioxide emissions.  However, the debate over emissions from fracking of methane, a greenhouse gas, may cause a shift in those numbers.  For now, 82 percent want the federal government to focus on developing natural gas.  That isn’t the top emphasis for new development, however.  89 percent want the development to focus on renewable technologies.

Polls indicate that people want to see greener alternatives to fossil fuels, a hopeful indicator for renewable energy supporters. The Pew Survey discovered that 58 percent said it is important to develop energy sources like wind, solar, and hydrogen technology, and 34 percent indicated the same for coal, oil, and natural gas.

Clean energy development is becoming increasingly popular, but are they willing to pay the cost to get the new energy technology up and running?  Well, no.

“I call this ‘hope is not an energy source,'” said Kevin Book, an analyst at ClearView Energy Partners.

“A lot of people who look at energy and say, ‘Why don’t we just do’ and you can fill in the rest of the sentence, and are hoping that things are cheaper than they already are,” he said. “Incumbent infrastructure is almost always cheaper, [and] I think people underestimate the hurdles for new technology.” – Polls show energy doesn’t spark Americans’ interest, Politico.com, Oct. 28 2013

Do you think it would change the conversation about the Keystone XL pipeline if the UT poll didn’t show that 58 percent of people said that the United State’s biggest foreign oil supplier was Saudi Arabia?   The heated debate over the Alberta-Texas pipeline project was supported by two-thirds of the people polled in the recent surveys.  However, only 13 percent of the UT poll knew that Canada was the largest oil exporter to the U.S.

“A large fraction of the energy debate is driven by ideology and partisanship and to the extent that that is the case the facts don’t matter much,” said Michael Levi, director of the energy security and climate change program at the Council on Foreign Relations. “Would we have a different Keystone debate?  I don’t think so.”

Levi said what people really need is a better understanding of what affects things like their electricity bill — and what doesn’t. He said the debate over the failed cap-and-trade bill in 2010 was notable for a “muddled” rhetorical fight over how much people would pay under a market-based greenhouse gas reduction program.

“The public could be smarter about how about energy affects them — how their bills are calculated and affected — and not worry about getting in the weeds,” Levi said.  – Polls show energy doesn’t spark Americans’ interest, Politico.com, Oct. 28 2013

Places like the Critical Issues Facing the Energy Industry Online Forum are great places for people in the industry to participate in an intelligent discussion revolving around relevant issues in the energy sector.

The energy industry is at a crossroads, safety is paramount and the Big Crew Change is well underway. The response is not one major decision by sector luminaries. Rather is it an ongoing stream of decisions made daily and mostly by midlevel management. In order to make timely and good decisions in our 24/7 global world, decision makers and their advisors must have timely access the best available data, information and informed trusted advice. PennEnergy and The Rapid Response institute have partnered to educate the energy industry. This partnership has resulted in the creation of Critical Issues Facing the Energy Industry Online Forum.  – www.PennEnergyResearch.com

The information, discussions, and webinars pertaining initially to the oil & gas sector, and focusing on the upcoming SEMS requirements. (November 15, 2013 is the deadline for accredited third-party audits to be completed).  However, with a subscription required, this is not the answer for the average Joe off the street.  How do we get the everyday person interested in something that is so important all the time and not just when they flip the light switch and nothing happens?

Maybe forums like this can offer an answer.  The energy industry involves some brilliant people, and enthusiasm is contagious, right?

‘Til next time,


Hank Green Tries to Wrap Our Minds Around Big (and Really Little) Numbers

I know we all get how much a million…of something is, but do you really get it?  How long ago was a million seconds? (Hint: I was wrong…by quite a bit.)  This really has nothing to do with energy.  There are computers…and it was kind of cool…and today is Monday.

” target=”_blank”>here, and I talk about the book signing where I received my copy here.  There aren’t too many people I would wait seven hours to meet, (Well, we exchanged a sentence or two and he signed two books for me.) but Neil Gaiman is one of them…still.

Don’t Forget To Be Awesome! (DFTBA)


A Different Kind of Crowdfunding Campaign: Bringing Solar Power to Schools

Natural Resources Defense Council

Natural Resources Defense Council (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I came across this article on PennEnergy.com and I just had to check it out to see what the deal was.  There is an Indiegogo campaign by NRDC to launch a clean energy pilot program in schools in the United States. How awesome is that? I am a big fan of crowdfunding in general, but before today, most of the campaigns I’ve been involved with have had more of an artistic bent. You know stuff like movies, albums…stuff like that, but as soon as I read the summary for this campaign, I just had to jump in.

The sun is a source of clean energy that we never have to worry about running out, and every time we power one of our schools with solar technology, we:

  • Help the school cut its energy costs
  • Give our kids healthier air to breathe
  • Make our communities more energy independent
  • Provide hands-on learning experiences with renewable energy, sparking student interest in science and math

That’s why we’re seeing more and more people raising their hands and saying, “I want solar for my school.”

-NRDC Indiegogo campaign

Here’s the challenge though.  Schools are always trying to stretch their budgets just a little bit further and administrators and teachers are always working to squeeze a little more time into their day.  Where are they going to find the time and resources to research and develop solar power for their school?

That’s where Solar Schools comes in.  This is a program that takes ideas from programs that help simplify a complicated process by walking you through this complex, multi-step process (like TurboTax) and networking sites (like LinkedIn) to build a community and connect them with experts in the field of solar power.  Solar Schools is all about empowering communities and schools.

The first phase of the pilot program is set to roll out in January of 2014.

Through pilot projects in 3-5 communities, we aim to prove that our new social organizing tool and dynamic guide will help communities:

  • Build their solar volunteer team quickly through friend-to-friend connections.
  • Organize and track project momentum by creating a “hub” and guide for activism.
  • Empower more parents, students and teachers as leaders – creating more project “ownership” opportunities and higher levels of volunteer engagement.

-NRDC Indiegogo campaign

The crowdfunding campaign through Indiegogo is to support the build-out of the Solar Schools platform, and help bring solar power to 3-5 schools around the United States during this first phase.

All of us know how important it is to spark an interest in the hearts of young people for math and science.  They could be the ones to to create the next big innovation in technology.  Maybe it all starts because they got to watch solar power at work at their school.

For All of Us Who Told Our Parents Video Games Were Not A Waste of Time

Image representing Nintendo as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

Anybody out there every play pong?  I bet those guys never dreamed that a video game would develop into what we see today.  Even when Nintendo first released Super Mario Brothers, who would have thought that gaming technology would impact so many industries?  In conversations I’ve had with several people in the energy industry over the last few months, gaming technology has come up.  This isn’t the have-you-played-the-new-Black-Ops kind of discussion either.  (Although, that comes up from time to time too.)  In the oil & gas space it has been about integrated operations, and that has inevitably led in to the topic of how many aerospace companies are crossing over into O&G these days.  It also put me in mind of a webcast  from a few months ago that is still available to view.  Really fascinating stuff!

Use of Gaming Technology and 3D Humans to Manage Worker Exposure to Radiation at Nuclear Plants

Utility workers at nuclear facilities are exposed to radiation that must be kept below certain levels to be considered safe. ALARA, an acronym for “As Low As Reasonable Achievable,” is a principle set forth by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission that gives employers an absolute duty to ensure the safety and health of workers in every aspect related to the work in radioactive environments.

During this session, Siemens PLM Software and Microsoft will examine the unique challenges utilities face when training for and planning ALARA human work processes. A special guest speaker from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) will talk about the ground breaking work they did to create an algorithm to estimate radiological dosage in nuclear plants. Siemens PLM Software and Microsoft will discuss commercial off the shelf software available today to help utilities improve employee health and safety programs by utilizing advanced IT tools for ALARA planning, while also improving work efficiency in the plant. Demonstrations will include Siemens PLM Software’s work planning application Tecnomatix with “Jack and Jill”, the virtual humans and the Kinect for Windows system.

You may have noticed that I get a kick out of the new technology that shows up…everywhere.  If you know of something new that you want to tell me about, drop a comment!  Commenting not your thing?  No biggie, email me, ilovegeekology101@gmail.com.

 I’d love to hear about it!

‘Til next time,


Big Data = Big Opportunity, But What A Pain in the…Processor



In the oil & gas Industry there’s a lot of change and growth happening. As more and more systems become automated and integrated, regulations change, and the market and competitive environment shift, information and knowledge become increasingly more important. Managing that influx of data becomes essential.  Whether this is used in the search for natural resources, understanding the global market, or managing safety and environmental risks, data is essential to make these business decisions.    In this white paper, Drilling for New Business Value, managing Big Data is the topic for discussion.


As the oil and gas industry continues to grow in complexity with changes in regulations, tighter margins, and possible infrastructure threats, executives need an easy way to view the increasing volumes of available data, make smarter, faster decisions, and create action plans in real-time. Leading oil and gas companies are recognizing that Big Data and Business Intelligence is not just the domain of “back office” analysts, but it is paramount to optimizing day-to-day operations across a broad spectrum of field workers, engineering, management, and sales and marketing roles. Read more here.


When I read the white paper, I was floored by the sheer volume of data out there.  I had to take a moment to try to wrap my head around the number of zeros this would entail.  The paper cites industry analysts IDC,


“the digital universe now includes 2.7 zettabytes of data. (A zettabyte equals almost 1.1 trillion gigabytes.)” Vesset, Dan and Benjamin S. Woo. “Worldwide Big Data Technology and Services 2012-2015 Forecast.” IDC. March 2012.


Okay, so I knew there was a lot of digital information floating around out there, but until today, a zettabyte was a term I had never heard of.  My company alone has 80+ websites and portals…I can’t even consider all of the social media universe.  Seriously, Tumblr alone with all the GIFs and pictures?  YouTube?  My puny brain is sparking with size of these numbers.  (How many zeros is in a trillion again?)  I kind of feel like the CD someone put in the microwave, just to see what would happen…Zettabytes? Yottabytes?


‘Til next time,






Statistics are Actually Kind of Cool…I’m Not Kidding!

Earlier this year I attended the EIA Conference in Washington, DC, and luckily for me I walked away from the trip with more than just a new found appreciation for the beauty of the capital of the United States.  This was my first EIA Conference, and it was chock full of wildly useful information.  Our keynote speaker at lunch was Hans Rosling, a professor at Karolinska Institute and Chairman of the Gapminder Foundation.  Although Professor Rosling isn’t an energy expert, his discussion and presentation were particularly interesting, because he discussed population growth and the importance of access to energy for developing countries among other topics.  He actually talks about the importance of creating a fact based worldview at Gapmider.  It is no longer just developed and developing countries…the facts show us another story.


I wish I could link you to his presentation as a keynote at the EIA Conference (It really was great.  There were animated bouncing circle graphs and everything.), but unfortunately that is unavailable (and I was too busy eating the surprisingly good lunch to really take good notes on the statistics he presented).   He is an incredibly entertaining, informative, and enthusiastic speaker.  However poor my notes are on his statistics (and they are practically non-existent), I was astounded at the impact access to energy and simple electricity truly has on the development of a country.  The challenge with this access comes from a great variety of sources, but infrastructure plays a large role.  Hans Rosling’s discussion came to mind as I was reading this white paper today.

Technology Trends and Tomorrow’s Energy Infrastructure Challenge

The latest studies show massive increases coming for the world’s population, and with that increase will come growing demand for hydrocarbons. The infrastructure to meet that demand is lacking, and it will take a massive investment over multiple generations to provide it. Meeting this challenge is already a monumental undertaking. Factor in skills shortages, environmental difficulties, increasing project size, and financial concerns, and the challenge can seem insurmountable. AutoDesk is thinking about these challenges. In Technology Trends and Tomorrow’s Energy Infrastructure Challenge, AutoDesk and PennEnergy look at these massive infrastructure needs and consider the technological advances that will help us meet and overcome them. This white paper examines real data from the OECD and the IEA, and looks at the possible scenarios it paints for the future. Then, using the latest technology trends, the paper confronts these challenges. From possible scenarios to probable results, this paper looks at the future needs for oil and gas infrastructure, and how we can best meet that challenge.

Now, I couldn’t find a video of a similar talk, by Hans Rosling, but Gapmider does a really cool thing, they offer the statistics (including the lovely dancing circles) to view for free.   So what is Gapminder exactly?

Gapminder is a non-profit foundation based in Stockholm. Our goal is to replace devastating myths with a fact-based worldview. Our method is to make data easy to understand. We are dedicated to innovate and spread new methods to make global development understandable, free of charge, without advertising. Gapminder.org

I hunted down a couple (or a few, I may have gotten fascinated by the bouncing circles) statistics that provide a correlation between the decrease in infant mortality rate and the increase in energy use.   I believe many of these are the same as the ones Mr. Rosling used in the presentation I saw.  However, I don’t have Sherlock Holmes’s mind palace and this was four months ago.  Hopefully, he’ll forgive me if I missed something or added something.  The graphs that I found to provide fascinating insight into this topic are listed and linked to below.  They have this data available in Excel format as well, but….well, I like the dancing circles more than numbers.

Energy use, total

Electricity use, total

Oil consumption, total

Child mortality (0-5 year olds dying per 1,000 born)

Children per woman (total fertility)

Life expectancy (years)

This Ted Talk from 2009 doesn’t cover the energy issue, but I found it really interesting.  Actually, all of his talks are pretty stinking riveting.  This guy makes statistics fun…those are words I never thought I would ever utter in my lifetime.  Thank goodness I’m sitting down.  I especially liked the surprise trick at the end. (No, I can’t tell you what it is…it wouldn’t be a surprise otherwise!)

‘Til next time,