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Shale gas boom pushing pipeline growth, report shows

| Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

More than half of the country's newest gas transmission pipelines are in the Northeast, where more are coming online to ship Marcellus shale gas to market, federal data released this week show.

Pipeline companies spent $1.1 billion on three transmission lines running through Western Pennsylvania — projects from Dominion Resources Inc., EQT Corp. and Spectra Energy Corp., according to the federal Energy Information Administration.

That is more than half of the nearly $2 billion spent nationally in 2012, when spending fell to average levels after a four-year spike.

Pipelines are getting fatter, too. The industry added about 200 miles of transmission pipe in the Northeast, about its 10-year average. But the capacity of the pipe was the second highest for any year since 1997.

Gas companies can ship an additional 3.2 billion cubic feet per day through the region, about two-thirds of the capacity added nationwide, the administration wrote Monday in its daily energy update.

“Natural gas production in the Marcellus shale formation continues to drive Northeast regional pipeline expansions,” the update stated. The numbers do not include gathering lines, another type of pipe expected to increase because drillers need to connect many wells to the grid.

The rapid pipeline expansion with the region's shale gas boom has drawn criticism. Though it brought billions of dollars of investment, it raised questions about its potential impact on safety, the environment and local economies.

Federal analysts don't anticipate the pipeline boom to tail off soon. More than 7 billion cubic feet of capacity, at least a 16-year high, will come online in the Northeast this year, according to industry announcements the administration tracks.

Spending will stay between $1 billion and $2 billion annually through 2015, and a peak of 400 miles of transmission pipe will be added in 2015.

Timothy Puko is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7991 or tpuko@tribweb.com.

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