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Many Natural Gas-Fired Power Plants Under Construction Are Near Major Shale Plays

map of natural gas-fired capcity additions, as explained in the article text

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electric Power Monthly as of February 2016. Note: Natural gas-fired capacity additions include plants completed and under construction.

Natural gas-fired power generation increased 19% in 2015, because of low natural gas prices, increased gas-fired generation capacity, and coal power plant retirements. EIA’s May 2016 Short-Term Energy Outlook forecasts that this year, natural gas-fired generation will exceed coal generation in the United States on an annual basis.

Growth in natural gas-fired generation capacity is expected to continue over the next several years, as 18.7 gigawatts (GW) of new capacity comes online between 2016 and 2018. Many of the new natural gas-fired capacity additions in development are near major shale gas plays. The Mid-Atlantic states and Texas have the most natural gas-fired capacity additions under construction with planned online dates within the next three years (2016–18).

Mid-Atlantic states. Many of the natural gas capacity additions are concentrated around the Marcellus and Utica shale regions, largely located in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio. These states have been leading the growth in U.S. natural gas production over the past several years, driven by increasing production in the Marcellus and Utica shales. Natural gas infrastructure has been added in these regions to transport natural gas to population centers along the Atlantic Coast. Among the states near the Marcellus and Utica shales, Virginia accounts for the largest cumulative additions of gas-fired capacity over the 2016–18 period, with 2.3 GW of gas-fired capacity under construction, followed by Ohio with 1.9 GW, Pennsylvania with 1.8 GW, and Massachusetts with 0.7 GW, according to EIA’s Electric Power Monthly.

Expanding pipeline networks in the Northeast are increasing takeaway capacity from the Marcellus and Utica shales, which will support the growth in natural gas-fired generating capacity. In 2015, 6.0 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) of new pipeline takeaway capacity in the Northeast was commissioned to transport natural gas to the east, south, and west of the Marcellus and Utica shales. In 2016, 2.2 Bcf/d of new pipeline capacity currently under construction is scheduled to come online in the Northeast, according to EIA data on natural gas pipeline infrastructure.

Texas. Significant levels of natural gas-fired capacity are under construction in Texas, with 3.2 GW expected to become operational over 2016–18. Texas produces more natural gas than any other state and is home to several major shale plays, including the Eagle Ford and Barnett shales.

Florida has the largest cumulative additions of gas-fired capacity currently under construction, with three plants that have a combined capacity of 3.8 GW expected to come online in 2016–18. Although the state has no shale gas production, the retirement of older, less-efficient coal units and the replacement of some oil-fired capacity have led to the expansion of regional pipeline networks to bring more shale gas to serve gas-fired generation.

The cumulative capacity additions cited above include plants that are under construction. The Mid-Atlantic states and Texas also have the most regulatory permit filings for new gas-fired capacity additions. Their combined received and pending permits amount to a cumulative 12.1 GW over the 2016–18 period. Texas leads the United States in permit filings, with received and pending permits to construct a cumulative 6.6 GW over the 2016–18 period.

Principal contributor: Victoria Zaretskaya

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Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on May 20, 2016 5:22 pm GMT

Victoria, compared to replacing coal with new and relicensed nuclear, the methane industry’s play-ful coup will result in 70 million tons of extra CO2 emissions – every year.

Given the EIA’s commitment to “public understanding of energy and its interaction with the economy and the environment”, that might be worth pointing out.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on May 21, 2016 5:43 am GMT

Hey Bob,
Can you show your calculation on that – I get a somewhat lower number? What are you using for the capacity factor of these plants? Not that big of a deal – our numbers are pretty close – just wondering.

If we do use your 70M tons number we would be replacing about 120M tons of annual coal emissions for an actual net benefit of 50M tons. Right? This would be occurring each and every year after the plants are built – let’s say most are finished by end of 2017.

In your scenario we sit around and wait for maybe 12-14 new nuclear plants to get built. Based on current licensing/construction times that would be 10-15 years – in which time we would have emitted that extra 50M tons of CO2 each and every year.

Plus, of course your nuclear plants are imaginary – since there are zero plants currently in the pipeline, after the under construction plants are finished. Right? Or can you show us a map like Victoria that shows the location/size of these proposed 12-14 plants.

Using Natural Gas/Renewables to replace coal 119M tons of emissions were eliminated in 2015. – (2,046M-1,925M) How much did nuclear replace coal and lower coal emissions in same time period? Zero.

Using Nat Gas/renewables to replace coal we can get CO2 emissions down from the 1,925M tons at end of 2015 to below 1,000M tons by 2030 – or we can wait for the imaginary nuclear plants which might start coming online around 2033. What makes more sense to you?

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on May 21, 2016 2:08 pm GMT

Joe, an actual net benefit of 120 MT makes more sense to me than an actual net benefit of 50 MT.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on May 21, 2016 4:12 pm GMT

Agreed Bob,That would be nice.

But as of right now, the 120MT net benefit is imaginary and the 50MT benefit is real.

By replacing most coal with Nat Gas/Renewables CO2 we will move down to 1,000MT by 2030 and we will avoid a cumulative emission of 7,500MT of CO2 over the next 15 years.

That’s the plan.

Hops Gegangen's picture
Hops Gegangen on May 22, 2016 11:15 am GMT

Methane, which isn’t necessarily “natural gas” has some big advantages. We have a large existing storage capacity — enough for heat and power generation over a cold winter. We have pipelines for deliver to homes and power stations, and we have the furnaces and generators in place that will last decades.

Now we just need a way to generate synthetic methane. There are catalysts that can use heat, water, and CO2 to create methane. It can also be created from biomass. The heat could come from nuclear or excess renewable power at peak times. We can also harvest waste methane from landfills and sewage as is already done in some places.

So to me, methane seems like a great buffer.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on May 22, 2016 6:57 pm GMT

No doubt we’ll phase out coal before methane, for reasons which include those you’ve mentioned. But we also need to reduce methane use, which will make it easier to get the remainder from sustainable sources.

For example, we can replace methane-based home heating with hot-water-based district heat networks, especially in northern cities. Compared to alternatives like electric heat-pumps, water-based heat networks allow easy heat storage (via tanks at the building, neighborhood, or city scale), thus they don’t load down the grid during peak times like heat pumps. Plus they leverage the high efficiency of combined-heat-and-power. This sort of infrastructure takes decades to build out, but will make it much easier for our children to avoid using fossil fuels.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on May 23, 2016 2:01 pm GMT

Whose plan is that, Joe?

In 1980, Jimmy Carter had a renewable plan every bit as self-assured and simple-minded as yours. He was wrong by a factor of 50 or 60.

Your solar panels could be free – they could sprout like weeds from California’s drought-stricken San Joaquin Valley – and in terms of addressing climate change, they wouldn’t scratch the surface.

Hops Gegangen's picture
Hops Gegangen on May 23, 2016 9:10 pm GMT
Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on May 24, 2016 4:55 am GMT

Does he have some way to make solar deliver at night, under clouds, in the middle of winter?

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on May 24, 2016 3:17 pm GMT

Hops, Kurzweil’s “Law of Accelerating Returns” was a great fit for early progress in microprocessing power (but isn’t anymore), he fails to explain how solar will reach “100% market share” by overcoming the boring, repetitious way solar becomes unavailable for at least one half of every day.

He might as well be pushing time travel.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on May 24, 2016 3:40 pm GMT

Hops, in a 2007 paper on generating nuclear synfuels, the MIT Center for Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems calculated we could replace gasoline globally by synthetic, carbon-neutral methanol by dedicating ~600 reactors to the task.

Methane would require even less energy, but carbon-neutral synfuels will always be more expensive than sucking them out of the ground. That’s the deal-breaker, and why we need to eliminate dependence on anything even capable of using a cheap fossil fuel as a source of energy. Including hydrogen.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on May 24, 2016 3:56 pm GMT

Just to be clear Bob – my version – more Nat Gas,solar and wind reduced coal consumption by 225K GWh in a single year 2014-2015. This helped reduce CO2 by 121M tons in a single year.
How did your plan do last year?
My version will reduce CO2 by at least an additional 50M tons in 2016. Your plan?
As a reference point – 225K GWh is equal to 28% of total Nuclear generation in 2015. How long will it take to add an additional 28% capacity in Nuclear?

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