U.S. Department of Energy
The natural gas sector in the United States has been fundamentally transformed by technological advancements in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing that have enabled the economic extraction of natural gas from shale formations. This breakthrough has, in turn, unlocked new, geographically diverse natural gas resources that are unprecedented in size.
The availability of abundant, low-cost natural gas has increased demand for natural gas from multiple end-use sectors. In the electric power sector, which is currently the largest consumer of natural gas in the United States, the record-low natural gas prices during the month of April 2012 drove generation from natural gas to virtually match that of coal. While coal has regained some of its market share because of gradually rising natural gas prices, the combination of favorable economics and the lower conventional air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions associated with natural gas relative to other fossil fuels is likely to contribute to expanded use of natural gas in the electric power sector in the future.
However, increased use of natural gas in the electric power sector also presents some potential challenges. Unlike other fossil fuels, natural gas cannot typically be stored on-site and must be delivered as it is consumed. Because adequate natural gas infrastructure is a key component of electric system reliability in many regions, it is important to understand the implications of greater natural gas demand for the infrastructure required to deliver natural gas to end users, including electric generators.
The purpose of this study is to understand the potential infrastructure needs of the U.S. interstate natural gas pipeline transmission system under several future natural gas demand scenarios. [H/T: Full Text Sources]