Clearing Up the Confusion on Pipeline Studies

New England’s growing dependence on natural gas has had some in the region worrying about supply constraints. In fact, concerns about natural gas supply and the impacts of proposed new pipelines prompted no fewer than three separate studies on the issue last year. In 2015, three consulting firms released separate reports for different clients analyzing the need for incremental natural gas pipeline in New England through 2030. The three distinctly different approaches to the studies have the potential to create uncertainty for those trying to compare the results. To address this confusion, Synapse produced a white paper which reviews the main differences in the methods and inputs for each of the three studies, along with their results and key findings.

New England Pipeline Reports Released in 2015

Overall, we find the key takeaways from the Synapse study performed on behalf of MassDOER to be consistent with the most recent of these studies, released by the Analysis Group on behalf of MassAG. We also find that several issues of critical importance to an assessment of pipeline need are largely ignored in ICF’s study on behalf of Kinder Morgan:

  • Additional natural gas pipeline may be an obstacle to compliance with state and federal climate policies.
  • The existence of current natural gas infrastructure expansion projects and the availability of liquefied natural gas (LNG) have a large impact on results. The extremes of the 2015 winter season substantially altered findings about LNG price and supply in New England.
  • Energy efficiency investments are the cheapest way to reduce the amount of electricity needed at peak times, when high electricity demand is most likely to create supply problems. None of the studies satisfactorily investigated the real potential for ambitious energy efficiency savings in Massachusetts and throughout New England.
  • Anticipated growth rates for non-electric natural gas demand and electric sales are key drivers in determining future natural gas infrastructure requirements.

Read the full paper

Sorting Out New England's Pipeline Needs