Learn About Access Northeast
Get information about the Access Northeast project, our processes and safety measures. Learn about liquified natural gas usage, storage and regulations.
About Access Northeast
- Why is this project important?
A lack of sufficient energy infrastructure in the region is driving electricity prices higher, limiting economic competitiveness and growth, and straining systems to the point where serious energy reliability issues threaten public safety and security. Over the past 15 years, natural gas-fired generation has grown from serving 15 percent of New England’s annual electric requirements to serving approximately half. At the same time, tens of thousands of New England homes and businesses have converted to natural gas heating, while pipeline capacity into the region has not grown. Last winter, New England wholesale electricity costs were nearly double compared with the previous year, largely due to pipeline constraints.
Access Northeast is in direct response to numerous requests from regional stakeholders and governmental agencies in New England for an environmentally responsible, scalable, efficient and effective pipeline project to meet the growth in natural gas consumption that New England has experienced and will continue to experience over the next decade, while keeping energy prices at competitive levels.
Access Northeast’s collaborative solution achieves all of these objectives by providing access to low-cost supply diversity, while minimizing community and environmental impacts through the enhancement of existing infrastructure.
Once Access Northeast is operational, it is projected to save electric customers an average of $1 billion a year during normal weather conditions and even more during severe cold weather, according to an ICF International study, which estimated that savings during the extreme 2013-2014 winter could have been $2.5 billion with Access Northeast in service.
- What is the timeline of this project?
In early November 2015, we filed a request with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to initiate the Pre-file review process, and we will file our FERC 7c application in 2016. We would expect to receive and accept the FERC certificate in 2018. Access Northeast will be implemented in phases. The initial phase is projected to be placed into service during the fourth quarter of 2018. It’s important to note that the expansion on Algonquin existing facilities will be within existing rights-of-way while having minimal environmental and community impact. Achieving this schedule requires regulators, and state and federal policy makers to act expeditiously.
- What is the expected cost?
Access Northeast is estimated to cost approximately $3 billion.
- How much additional natural gas will this provide?
Access Northeast will be capable of reliably delivering up to one billion cubic feet of natural gas per day to serve the region’s most efficient power plants and meet increasing demand from heating customers.
- What is Algonquin proposing as part of the Access Northeast project?
The Access Northeast project includes the expansion of approximately 125 miles of the existing Algonquin pipeline system. Algonquin connects directly to 60 percent of the regions gas-fired electric generation along its existing corridors.
The project also includes the construction of two new liquefied natural gas (LNG) storage tanks, liquefaction and vaporization facilities in Acushnet, Massachusetts on the existing Eversource property adjacent to two existing LNG storage tanks. Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is an important resource in the winter season because stored LNG may be readily converted into vaporized natural gas and delivered into the existing pipeline system. This phase of the project also includes an extension of the Algonquin interstate pipeline to the Eversource property.
- How much of this expansion will be on existing infrastructure versus new construction?
Virtually all of Access Northeast will take place on existing pipelines on existing rights-of-ways.
- How does this accommodate renewable energy?
Renewable energy is a very important part of the New England landscape. Access Northeast will support renewable energy development by enabling rapid response to sudden changes in power output with regional storage facilities and quick-start natural gas-fueled power generation.
- What is the project path?
The project path is flexible depending on where customers are located and what their specific needs are. Suggested receipt points would be on the west end of the Algonquin system and delivery points can be customized based on customer location and need.
- How will this impact the AIM & Atlantic Bridge projects?
Access Northeast is independent from Spectra Energy’s previously announced Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) and Atlantic Bridge projects. AIM and Atlantic Bridge are separate and independent projects. Spectra Energy’s AIM expansion project will begin to de-bottleneck the pipeline system by winter of 2016, helping to enhance reliability and reduce natural gas price volatility in New England. AIM is underpinned by long-term commitments from gas utility companies across southern New England. Atlantic Bridge’s proposed in-service date is November 2017, and it is supported by gas utilities and industrial companies.
- Could merchant gas generation in New England operate, even on the coldest winter days?
We estimate it will supply enough natural gas to supply 5,000 MW of efficient natural gas generation, which is very considerable, but it does not represent all merchant gas generation in New England. Additionally, while the majority of New England’s natural gas generation is connected to Access Northeast, some is not.
- What regulatory approvals are required?
Approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is required for the siting of the pipeline expansion, as well as, the contracts entered into between Access Northeast and its customers. In addition, state level approvals will be required with respect to electric distribution companies’ (EDCs) participation.
Operations & Safety
- What are the safety measures of this project?
Algonquin Gas Transmission is dedicated to the safe, reliable operation of facilities and the protection of employees, the public and the environment.
Natural gas pipelines monitor and control safety in many ways and use many different tools. Collectively, these tools make natural gas transmission pipelines one of the safest s of energy transportation. Access Northeast’s safety programs are designed to prevent pipeline failures, detect anomalies, per repairs and often exceed regulatory requirements.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (“USDOT”) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (“PHMSA”) oversees the safety of interstate natural gas pipelines and mandates minimum requirements, from the design and construction to testing, operations, maintenance and emergency response. The new pipeline will operate in strict accordance with all federal and state safety requirements.
Algonquin works closely with local public safety officials to provide them with a thorough awareness of pipelines and pipeline safety.
To ensure our pipelines remain in safe and reliable operating condition, we employ a number of techniques – from high-tech monitoring at our gas control centers to foot patrols of pipeline right-of-ways.
Gas Control – Our high-tech computer control center is staffed 24-hours a day and monitors the flow of natural gas. As an added safety measure, remote control equipment is installed along the pipeline system, enabling us to operate valves remotely from gas control.
Gas Measurement – We precisely measure the quantity of natural gas along the pipeline as well as sample the natural gas at many sites to identify potential corrosive components.
Rectifiers and Cathodic Protection – Rectifiers transfer a regulated amount of current flow to the pipelines and receive electric current from AC sources like power lines. We check all rectifiers along the pipeline system every two months to ensure they are operating properly. Proper electric current flow along the surface of a pipeline impedes corrosive activity and prolongs the useful life of pipelines for many decades. The amount of current applied to the pipelines is harmless to humans, animals and plant life.
Above/Below Ground Coating Maintenance – Above and below ground pipeline facilities are protected by a coating that inhibits corrosion. Routine visual inspection of all above-ground facilities is conducted to determine if any coating damage or deterioration has occurred. During excavation or maintenance activities, we always inspect the coating for damage or deterioration.
Internal Pipe Cleaning – Our pipeline facilities are cleaned to minimize internal corrosion. Cleaning is conducted using devices called “pigs” that travel inside designated sections of the pipeline and remove liquids and debris from inside the pipe.
Inline Inspection – Inline inspections are pered with “smart pigs” which are mechanical tools that allow us to see the pipeline from the inside. These inline inspections can locate possible internal and external corrosion or other irregularities in the pipeline.
Ground Surveys – The pipeline right-of-way is patrolled in populated areas and some other areas of interest on foot and by vehicle. These ground surveys can reveal leaks and other potential issues.
Leak Surveys – We routinely per leak surveys on all of our facilities. These leak surveys look for fugitive emissions of natural gas. Many miles of the pipeline are surveyed with ground surveying techniques and aerial patrols are also used.
Aerial Patrols – Company planes conduct aerial patrols of the pipeline right-of-ways at least once a week. The aerial patrol looks for ground changes, construction activities or other conditions that could affect the pipeline.
Waterway Inspections – Locations where the pipeline crosses waterways are inspected at the surface every year to check for bank erosion, visible pipeline exposure and natural gas leaks indicated by bubbles. Many waterway crossings are inspected at the bottom of the waterway each year by contract divers under our direction. These divers determine if the pipeline is adequately covered.
Right-of-Way Maintenance – Mowing and clearing the right-of-way allows us to patrol the area by ground and air to discover activity that could lead to pipeline damage. It also allows the company to easily discover leaks and natural earth movement that could damage the pipeline facilities.
Sign/Marker Maintenance – Markers and signs are posted along our pipeline right-of-ways to in the public of the presence of the natural gas pipelines. The markers are placed at street and road crossings, railroad crossings and other significantly visible points along the right-of-way to reduce the possibility of damage to or interference with the pipeline.
In densely populated areas, we frequently place the markers within “line of sight” proximity – this means the markers are so close together that you can see from one marker to the next. Markers and signs include our name and the phone number to call if any abnormal condition or suspicious activity is detected that would threaten the integrity of the pipeline. In addition, 1 foot below natural grade, we install a bright yellow warning ribbon reflecting the location of the pipeline to notify potential excavators of the pipe’s location.
Liquefied Natural Gas
- What is Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)?
“LNG” is liquefied natural gas—natural gas cooled to a temperature of about -260 degrees Fahrenheit at which it condenses into a liquid form. Liquefying natural gas reduces its volume by 1/600th (in other words, 600 cubic feet of natural gas is reduced to 1 cubic foot of LNG, making it more practical to store and transport. LNG is stored cold in insulated containers at near atmospheric pressure.
- How is LNG used?
In New England, nearly 50% of the electric generation supply comes from cleaner-burning, natural gas-fueled power plants. During the coldest winter days, as much as 40% of New England’s natural gas supply comes from LNG. Liquefying natural gas reduces its volume by more than 600 times, making it easier to transport and for long-term storage so it can be vaporized and made available to create electricity for customers during peak demand periods, when the supply of natural gas might otherwise be limited or unavailable.
- Is LNG safe?
LNG is not stored under pressure and is not explosive. The LNG industry’s highest priority has been safety and security, which is reflected in the industry’s enviable safety record. There have been no safety incidents during the 40 + years in which the existing Acushnet LNG facility has been in operation.
- Why did you pick this location for the LNG facility?
Eversource Energy and its predecessor companies have operated a LNG facility in Acushnet for more than 40 years on a safe and reliable basis. The new facility will be only 3 miles from the Algonquin pipeline. This will be a minimally invasive project with significant benefits for the local communities and the region.
- Do the developers of the Access Northeast Project have experience owning and operating a market area storage LNG facility?
Eversource Energy and National Grid, two of the three lead developers of the Access Northeast project, are long-time LNG operators. Eversource operates LNG facilities in Hopkinton and Acushnet, Massachusetts, and in Waterbury, Connecticut. National Grid operates multiple LNG facilities throughout the northeast, including the iconic rainbow tank alongside the Southeast Expressway in Boston. National Grid has more than 40 years’ experience in the liquefaction process and transporting LNG, and currently operates liquefaction facilities in downstate New York.
The existing market area storage facilities in Acushnet are located on a 15-acre parcel within a 250-acre tract of property owned by Eversource. The Acushnet LNG facilities have operated safely and reliably at this site for more than 40 years. The Acushnet LNG facilities encompass two LNG storage tanks with total storage capacity of 0.5 Bcf (billion cubic feet). The new facility will be constructed on an adjacent parcel within the larger Tract. The interstate pipeline owned and operated by Algonquin Gas Transmission runs within three miles of the Acushnet LNG facilities.
- How is LNG stored?
LNG is stored at atmospheric pressure in double-walled, insulated tanks that act much like a thermos. The inner tank contains the LNG, while the outer tank contains the insulation and also acts as secondary containment in the unlikely event of a leak.
- How are LNG tanks constructed?
LNG tanks are designed and built using double-walls, with extremely efficient insulation between the walls. The inner tank is made of a special nickel steel alloy that can resist the cold temperatures associated with direct exposure to LNG. The outer tank will be a thick-walled, steel lined, pre-stressed steel reinforced concrete tank designed to contain the LNG in the extremely unlikely event of a leak in the inner tank. The tanks are built to withstand high winds, floods and earthquakes.
- What if there is a spill or a release? What would happen?
There are numerous layers of safety and security systems in place to prevent such incidents. There are also monitoring systems in place to quickly detect a leak and trigger the safety systems. Storage tanks are built with multiple layers of containment.
LNG is not explosive, toxic, nor carcinogenic. In the event of a release of LNG from the inner storage tank, that leak will be contained by the outer tank. In the highly unlikely event of an additional leak in the outer tank, LNG will vaporize, meaning that the liquid will warm up and change back into a gas. This gas would quickly dissipate as it warms up and becomes lighter than air, leaving no environmental trace.
- Is LNG environmentally friendly?
LNG is widely recognized as an environmentally friendly fuel source. Unlike some other fossil fuels, natural gas is non-carcinogenic and non-toxic. When liquefied, impurities such as sulfur, carbon dioxide, mercury and water are removed from natural gas and safely disposed of. This creates a product that, when re-vaporized and transported to customers, is clean burning and safe for the environment. Compared to the average air emissions from coal-fired generation, natural gas produces half as much carbon dioxide, less than a third as much nitrogen oxides, and one percent as much sulfur oxides at the power plant.
- How are LNG facilities regulated?
The siting, design, construction and operation of LNG facilities are regulated by many government agencies. For Access Northeast, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) will be the lead federal agency in reviewing the project (including the proposed LNG facility) under Section 7 (c) of the federal Natural Gas Act (NGA). Other federal and state agencies will participate in the FERC process as consulting agencies and/or will administer other permitting processes. The following are a few of the agencies that regulate LNG facilities:
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) regulates such things as gas transportation rates, pipeline capacity, pipeline siting and natural gas quality requirements. For LNG facilities, FERC will perform a design review and ensure the safety and reliability of LNG facilities.
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and their state and local agents provide regulation for the safe transportation of natural gas through pipelines. For LNG facilities, DOT PHMSA also maintains the federal siting and design standards for LNG facilities.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides regulation for the safe working place for our employees.
- Are there restrictions on the proximity of LNG facilities to residential areas?
Yes. Applicable regulations and safety codes require that LNG containers and transfer systems be located far enough away from residential areas to protect residents and property in case of an accident. The distance depends on various factors, including storage tank design, site plan configuration, and natural features (e.g., topography). “Exclusion zones” are areas around LNG facilities where public activities are prohibited or restricted—and the facility operator must demonstrate control over these zones. In the remote event of an LNG spill or fire, these exclusion zones are intended to help protect the public and their property from damage.
- How are LNG facilities secured?
Safety and security have always been extremely important for LNG operators and regulators. General security and operating procedures that prevent security breaches and manage safety risks include: tightly controlled access to LNG facilities; security zones around the facility; redundant security fences and alarms; separation distances around facilities and equipment; 24-hour surveillance; constant communication; coordination with local, state, and federal agencies; and frequent inspections and safety drills.
- Will LNG explode?
LNG is not explosive or flammable in its liquid state and LNG vapors in an open environment cannot explode. To create an explosion, LNG vapors would have to be spilled, evaporate to create natural gas, be mixed in an even tighter ratio with air, be in an enclosed space (such as a building) and have an ignition source – circumstances, which are nearly impossible to find at an LNG facility.
- Why do some people worry about LNG's potential hazards?
LNG storage facilities are not as familiar to most people as power plants, gas stations and other energy infrastructure. They hold a lot of stored energy and people often assume, incorrectly, that this creates an explosion hazard. LNG, in liquid, is not flammable and cannot explode. The bottom line is that LNG, based on its safety record and characteristics, ranks as one of the safest and least environmentally hazardous energy sources.
- What is an LNG "peak-shaving" facility?
LNG peak-shaving facilities are used to store LNG to meet peak consumption during the winter. Each peak-shaving facility has a vaporization unit that converts LNG into natural gas and some have a liquefaction unit, which converts natural gas into LNG. Of the approximate 113 active LNG facilities in the United States, 93 are peak-shaving facilities.
- How is LNG vaporized and is this conversion safe?
LNG is converted back into natural gas by simply warming it up. This is accomplished using vaporization systems that typically use gas-fired heaters to warm a Heat Transfer Fluid (HTF) through which LNG is piped. The LNG warms due to its exposure to the heated fluid and is effectively vaporized. Vaporization allows stored LNG to be re-injected into a natural gas pipeline to be distributed to homes, power plants generating electricity, and local businesses. The vaporization process is performed using advanced technologies with proven safety records.
- How is natural gas liquefied and is this conversion safe?
Natural gas is converted into a liquid state through a process of compression, cooling, and expansion. The process requires the use of a refrigerant. The Access Northeast project will utilize nitrogen, which is nonflammable and will be used as a single component refrigerant. No flammable refrigerants (such as ethane, ethylene, or propane) will be used in the liquefaction process.