Clean-energy and community activists have been able to stall or kill most new natural gas pipeline proposals in New England, but one expansion project has made it.
The Algonquin Incremental Market project went into service last month. It increased the region’s pipeline capacity for the first time since 2010, and represents the largest venture since 2007, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The $972 million project expanded the major pipeline carrying gas from the Appalachian shale deposits into the region by upgrading compressor stations and increasing pipe size in some places.
The expansion will provide an additional 342 million cubic feet of gas a day. The region burns roughly 4.5 billion cubic feet on a winter’s day – equal to 31 million gallons of heating oil – so the contribution isn’t a game changer.
It is, however, expected to offset declining imports of liquefied natural gas from overseas and help smooth some of the spikes in wholesale gas and electricity prices, linked to a shortage of fuel on cold days.
Spectra Energy, the developer, said it placed a final lateral line outside Boston into service on Dec. 1. It’s still installing a new, larger pipe under the Hudson River in New York, according to Marylee Hanley, a Spectra spokeswoman, but is using the existing pipe for now.
In a separate venture, Spectra has finished a lateral line to connect a converted coal-fired power plant in Salem Harbor, Massachusetts, due to be in service next summer.
Spectra has been trying to build a larger, $3 billion project called Access Northeast. It would further expand the Algonquin line, hook up more power plants and add LNG storage tanks. An August court ruling in Massachusetts that prohibited electric customers there from financing private pipeline projects was a setback, but Spectra and its utility partners are still pursuing the project.
Spectra also is moving ahead with a plan that could move more gas through Maine, by expanding capacity on the line running from Nova Scotia. Spectra says it’s on track to put its Atlantic Bridge expansion into service for the 2017-2018 heating season.
CORRECTION: This story was updated at 7:46 a.m. on Dec. 27, 2016 to clarify that Spectra and its utility partners are pursuing the project.