Processing Magazine

Pipelines race out of the mountains into yards

December 1, 2008

In the past 10 years, more than 20,000 miles of new natural gas pipelines have been built and brought on line, according to the Associated Press. Those pipelines can carry more than 97 billion cubic feet of natural gas every day. The owners of property over which new pipelines are planned are concerned about leaks into water and soil, land damaged by construction, land lost to a right of way and, in some cases, even loss of livelihood. The bulk of the new natural gas supply is in the energy-rich Rockies and Texas. Producers are sinking traditional oil and gas wells and drilling into coal-bed methane reserves in Wyoming, Colorado and Utah. In Texas, it''s the Barnett Shale, a 6,000-square-mile bedrock region of natural gas, and the Bossier Sands tight-gas formation. Between 1998 and 2006, natural gas production in these two regions jumped 96 percent and proved natural gas reserves climbed 127 percent, government statistics show. There are currently about 288,000 miles of gas pipelines with a capacity of 187 billion cubic feed per day. From 2008 to 2010, about 200 projects have been proposed to add 10,100 more miles, according to the Energy Information Administration. If all are finished, the nation''s natural gas capacity will jump by more than 38 percent, the EIA said, at an overall cost of about $28 billion. The behemoth of the new pipelines is the $4 billion Rockies Express, a joint venture by Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, a unit of Sempra Energy and ConocoPhillips. Construction of the 1,679-mile, 42-inch pipeline began two years ago about 160 miles northwest of Denver. The pipeline will have the capacity to move 1.8 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day, and will send it to markets east of the Mississippi River. Natural gas in the United States is plentiful, and so are its backers. They say natural gas will serve as a bridge until renewable energy technology can be developed more. But as natural gas is shipped from West to East, the pipelines intersect with plans that people have made for their own livelihoods. Rockies Express spokesman Allen Fore said they have worked with federal and state officials throughout the process and accommodated requests where they could. He said the natural gas is pressurized so it won''t leak into the ground and if there is some type of impact, the pipeline shuts down automatically.