RICHMOND - How much gas can the Atlantic Coast Pipeline carry?
That question surged to the front of the pack last week amid ongoing critiques including how Virginia is handling water quality certifications for the controversial Dominion Energy-led project and arguments before the State Corporation Commission about whether Virginia ratepayers will fork over up to $2.4 billion in additional costs for what opponents say is an unnecessary new source of natural gas.
Dominion Energy'sDan Weekley, a vice president and general manager at the company, told the South Carolina Clean Energy Summit in Columbia last month that Dominion could bring "almost a billion cubic feet a day into South Carolina" when it extends the pipeline, as "everyone knows" it will, according to an Associated Press report last week.
Those remarks, pipeline opponents contend, undercut the stated rationale for theroughly $5.5 billion, 600 mile project, which, if approved, will bring Marcellus Shale natural gas through West Virginia, across Virginia and into North Carolina, with an extension running from the Virginia-North Carolina border south of Emporia to Chesapeake.
"For us, that underscores this issue that we've been focusing on: that there's not demand for new gas-fired power plants in Virginia or North Carolina that will justify the Atlantic Coast Pipeline," said Greg Buppert, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center in Charlottesville, which has fought the project. "That sounds like companies looking for a market for their products because the market they've been banking on isn't materializing."
Dominion and its partners, which include Duke Energy, have said the prime driver of the project is a demand for natural gas from utilities in Virginia and North Carolina that have already signed contracts for the vast majority of the 1.5 billion cubic feet of gas a day that developers have said the pipeline will carry.
Weekley's remarks mean that either most of the gas the pipeline will carry won't go to Virginiaor North Carolina or it can carry more gas than previously stated.
According to Dominion spokesman Aaron Ruby, the answer is the latter. And he stressed that no decisions have been made to expand the pipeline at this point.
Ruby said the pipeline could carry up to 2 billion cubic feet of natural gas by adding new compressor stations, beefing up the horsepower of existing stations or a combination of the two.
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