Last May, Liberty Utilities, located and operating in New Hampshire, announced a new pipeline project called Granite Bridge–27 miles of new natural gas pipeline to be buried along Route 101 from Stratham to Manchester, along with an LNG storage facility located midway along the pipeline (see Liberty Utilities Floats Plan for 27-Mile Pipeline in Southern NH). The project faces more regulatory approvals, but the new/good news is that it continues to make progress.
Granite Bridge will link two existing pipelines together, which means Granite Bridge itself won’t need compressor stations. Well, that’s not exactly true. About a third of the way along the route Liberty plans to build an LNG storage facility, located on a 140 acre parcel, west of Exit 6, adjacent to Route 101 in Epping. Liberty plans to pull gas from the pipeline during low price periods and liquefy it and store it at the facility. There will be three compressors at the LNG facility–but they’re not the type of compressors that push the gas along the pipeline. They will be used to compress and help liquefy the gas, and regassify it when pulling it out of storage.
Liberty held public meetings about the project and from those meetings ended up tweaking the route. The original price for the project quoted last year was $340 million. A new story says that price, in light of route changes, has gone up by 30% (something north of $440 million).
We’ve asked the question before: Is it possible to build ANY kind of natgas pipeline in New England? Liberty is answering that question in the affirmative. Some 22 of 24 NH state senators support the project, along with Republican Gov. Chris Sununu (see Granite Bridge Shows How to Build a New Pipeline in New England).
Here’s the latest on New England’s pipeline unicorn:
Liberty Utilities presented a new economic analysis of its Granite Bridge project Friday maintaining it is the lowest-cost option for expanding natural gas in the region.
The Public Utilities Commission had delayed its review of the 27-mile underground project along Route 101 so that the utility could complete this update on its estimate for construction costs and economic forecasts.
The plan calls for building a new pipeline carrying liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Stratham to Manchester with a plant to store gas in Epping.
Company officials underlined Friday its assertion that buying gas in the summer and storing it in Epping would lead to significant savings for Liberty customers who buy gas during the winter months when it’s typically more expensive.
“After over a year of extensive development work, Granite Bridge continues to be the lowest-cost, least disruptive way to meet the natural gas needs of New Hampshire customers,” said Susan Fleck, Liberty Utilities president.
“With all the market volatility we have seen in recent years, LNG would provide considerable benefit to our customers. We looked at our actual natural gas purchases over the past five years and calculated that if the Granite Bridge LNG facility had been in service during that time, our customers would have enjoyed over $120 million in savings on their natural gas costs.”
During its review utility executives have made design changes for the pipeline moving some of its route to avoid environmentally sensitive areas.
This latest report maintains those changes raised the cost of construction by 30 percent, officials said.
The energy purchase savings should permit Liberty Utilities to keep its earlier forecast that construction of the pipeline would increase the average customer’s bill by about $2 per month.
The so-called Customer Benefit Guarantee requires efficiencies and these savings would be used to lower the up front capital cost for Liberty’s customers.
“Granite Bridge is a long term solution to New Hampshire’s energy needs. We are committed to helping residents and businesses in the area take advantage of clean, low cost natural gas through the efficient management of our resources,” Fleck said. “The Customer Benefit Guarantee is simply further evidence of Liberty Utilities’ commitment to deliver stability in supply and cost to our customers.”
The project has attracted strong support from business groups and organized labor, but many environmentalists maintain Liberty Utilities has aggressively made moves in the energy market to create more demand in the state for natural gas.
The PUC’s consumer advocate had called for more transparency into the company’s finances and warned this project could lead to a significant increase in the rate base passed on to customers.
Last week the town of Epping overwhelmingly approved a non-binding resolution at its Town Meeting to compel the utility to seek local approval of the storage plant site.
Currently the project only requires state approval from the PUC for its finances and then review from the state Site Evaluation Committee.*
A correction to the story above. The pipeline itself does not flow LNG–it flows natural gas that is not liquefied. There is an LNG plant along the pipeline that will be able to remove the gas and liquefy and store it, but before the gas returns to the pipeline from a liquefied state, it gets regassified. Just want to clear that up.
What we learn from the article above is that the Public Utilities Commission has delayed its review, but that’s not a bad thing. These things in New England take three times as long as anywhere else. The good news is that the project is still alive and still moving forward and has all the earmarks that it will get built. A rarity in New England.
Map of the proposed Granite Bridge Pipeline path:
*Manchester (NH) Union Leader (Mar 15, 2019) – Liberty Utilities update of natural gas pipeline proposal finds 30% spike in cost to accommodate environmental concerns
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