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Pipeline expansion could bring more shale gas to Philly

Spectra Energy wants to expand the capacity of the Philadelphia Lateral, shown here.

Spectra Energy

Spectra Energy wants to expand the capacity of the Philadelphia Lateral, shown here.

Philadelphia may be getting more Marcellus Shale gas if all goes well with plans for an expansion of the Philadelphia Lateral, a section of the Texas Eastern pipeline system. Spectra Energy, the pipeline company that operates Texas Eastern, has plans to enlarge the capacity of the pipeline that connects the transmission line to Philadelphia.

Devin Hotzel, a spokesman for Spectra Energy, says the current pipeline needs to be larger to meet demand for Marcellus gas in Philadelphia.

“The demand has gone beyond what we can deliver through those pipes,” said Hotzel.

Hotzel says Spectra is in the earliest stages of planning the “Greater Philadelphia Expansion Project.” “Open season” for the project, which allows potential customers to request additional capacity through the pipe, ends today. That information will be used to decide if and how the project moves forward.

“It’s as early as it gets in the project,” said Hotzel.

The Texas Eastern pipeline links gas fields along the Gulf Coast to the Northeast. Traveling more than 9,000 miles, it runs across Pennsylvania, into New Jersey and up to New York. The Philadelphia Lateral is the section of pipe that connects the Texas Eastern transmission line to the city and surrounding counties. It starts at the Eagle compressor station in Chester County as two 20 inch diameter lines and runs beneath the ground to Chester Junction in Delaware County. From there the lines split, become 16 inch diameter pipes, running in both directions along the Delaware river north to Philadelphia and south to the Delaware border.

Spectra says it currently delivers about 550,000 dekatherms of natural gas a day through the Philadelphia lateral. The mid-stream company has connecting pipelines from the transmission line to the Marcellus Shale fields in both Northeast and Southwest Pennsylvania.

Expansion of the Philadelphia Lateral could include replacing the current pipe with a larger diameter line, and/or, looping in additional pipe. Hotzel says the project will likely use the same footprint.

“One of the benefits of this project is that we’re able to avoid greenfield construction,” said Hotzel.

The demand is being driven by industrial customers like power plants or refineries looking for the cheaper Marcellus gas.

The Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce has been pushing to turn Philadelphia into an “energy hub,” but have been stymied by a lack of pipeline infrastructure connected to the Marcellus.

Because the pipeline is part of an interstate system, Spectra Energy will have to submit permit applications to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Hotzel says if the plan goes forward, they’re looking at completing the expansion in November 2018.

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