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Natural Gas 101

Natural gas is made up of hydrocarbon gases, primarily methane. It is usually found deep below the earth's surface, often with deposits of oil, and is removed by wells that are drilled to access the petroleum deposits.

Natural gas is the cleanest-burning fossil fuel.

Natural gas is primarily transported in an underground system of large-diameter pipes.

Over 300,000 miles of transmission pipelines deliver natural gas to more than 160 million North American consumers in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How is exporting LNG in the public interest?

Pacific Connector is required to develop and submit a complete and comprehensive project application for the proposed pipeline system to its regulator, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The FERC staff will develop an environmental impact statement using the National Environmental Policy Application process; the FERC also evaluates project impacts and benefits and makes a recommendation to the Commissioners. The Commissioners ultimately decide if the project is in the public interest and, if so, issues a conditional Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity. The Jordan Cove project will go through the same FERC process, but their project also requires an additional license from the Department of Energy to export LNG to foreign markets. These three federal authorizations, if granted, would demonstrate that both projects are in the public interest.

Q: What is Pacific Connector's position on exporting U.S. natural gas?

Pacific Connector is a transporter of natural gas. It doesn’t own any interest in the natural gas it transports and doesn’t discriminate regarding the source of, or ultimate use of, the natural gas flowing through its system. If authorized, Pacific Connector will provide transportation service to all of its customers, including Jordan Cove.

Q: Will exporting LNG increase the price of natural gas?

It’s difficult to predict whether this or any other project would have an impact on the price of natural gas; however, the volume of natural gas involved in this project is such a small fraction of total North American production that any impact is expected to be negligible. The most important thing to consider is the fact that gas is currently being sold at near record low prices, which is not sustainable. We’re in a situation of oversupply where many producers are sustaining a loss for producing natural gas and are shutting in production. An increase in demand will result in price stability, which will benefit producers and consumers of all types in the long run, whether industrial, commercial or residential customers.

Q: If U.S. natural gas is so abundant and inexpensive, why wouldn’t we keep it here to benefit us?

Natural gas, like many other forms of energy (crude, oil, coal, etc.) and many other raw materials (grain, forest products, etc.) is a commodity. While the United States has not historically been a net exporter of energy, the abundant supply of natural gas in the U.S. and Canada has provided the opportunity to export this energy as liquefied natural gas (LNG). Selling some of this commodity on the international market would allow the U.S. to reduce its current trade imbalance and boost its economy. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Department of Energy will consider these economic benefits in determining if the Pacific Connector and Jordan Cove projects are in the public interest.

Q: When the market changes again, how can you still justify the project?

The role of Pacific Connector is to efficiently and effectively transport natural gas and provide that service to all customers who contract for it. Customers who sign up for transportation service on Pacific Connector will sign long-term contracts and will be obligated to use that service to address their anticipated energy needs from sources connected to Pacific Connector—regardless of changes in the market during the term of those contracts. If market dynamics change, these issues will be addressed at the termination of the original long-term contracts that justify construction of the Pacific Connector pipeline.

Q: How can you ensure the pipeline is safe?

Safety is our top priority in building a pipeline. Pacific Connector will have an overall pipeline integrity management plan that includes rigorous inspections for the length and life of the proposed pipeline.

Some of these safety measures include:

  • Pipeline representatives inspect the pipe at the mill during fabrication to ensure its quality meets federal, industry and company standards.
  • Protective coatings are applied at the mill and during construction to prevent moisture from coming into contact with the metal.
  • The welds linking the pipe joints are x-rayed to ensure integrity.
  • Once the pipeline is in the ground, it is tested with water at pressures higher than maximum operating pressure to ensure the pipeline's integrity.
  • After the pipeline is installed, a low-voltage electrical system called cathodic protection applies direct current to the pipeline that, along with the pipe coating, prevents corrosion of the steel pipeline.
  • After the pipeline is placed in service, internal electronic inspection devices, called “smart pigs,” are used to verify geometry and detect anomalies during periodic inspections.
  • Aerial and ground inspections of pipeline rights of way occur on a regular basis.
  • Markers are posted along our rights of way to let the public know there is a pipeline in the area.
  • Pipeline personnel monitor our systems 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Our equipment can detect changes in pressure or flow. Dispatchers can quickly take action to isolate or shut down compression and pipeline equipment if a problem is detected.
  • Regular meetings are held with local emergency personnel to coordinate procedures in the unlikely event of an emergency.
  • Personnel perform periodic maintenance inspections, including leak surveys, valve inspections and geotechnical assessments.

Q: What is your safety record?

Williams will operate the proposed Pacific Connector gas pipeline system. Williams also owns Northwest Pipeline, which has been safely delivering natural gas to the Pacific Northwest for more than 55 years. Northwest Pipeline has developed an enhanced long-term pipeline integrity management plan and has been inspecting and managing pipeline integrity even before regulations required it to do so in January 2003.

Q: Why does Pacific Connector have the right of eminent domain?

If the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approves Pacific Connector’s application to construct and operate a pipeline system, that approval grants Pacific Connector the right of eminent domain to acquire land rights, which includes local permits. It’s rarely necessary to exercise the right of eminent domain (typically less than one percent of the time on other Williams' projects) because Williams is usually successful in negotiating land rights with landowners. Even if negotiations fail and Pacific Connector pursues land rights through the eminent domain process, landowners are still fairly compensated; however, the amount of compensation is determined by the court.

Q: So if you’re granted a certificate for the project, then I won’t have a choice on whether you take my property?

To be clear, Pacific Connector won’t take a landowner’s property—we’re acquiring a land right to construct and operate a pipeline system. Pacific Connector may choose to negotiate with landowners to acquire easements/property rights prior to receiving a FERC certificate for the project.

Q: Will you pay for me to have an attorney look at your offer and consult with me on my rights?

Yes, we would provide reasonable limited compensation for that purpose during the easement negotiation process.

Q: Will a pipeline on my property affect the value of my property?

There have been several studies on the effect of natural gas pipelines on property values, and none have found any significant impact on the long-term value. The question of value always depends on the specific piece of property and its surroundings, intended use and how much the easement affects the property. That’s why Pacific Connector will create an individual proposal for each landowner that takes these and other factors into consideration.

Q: How will the project benefit my community and Oregon?

The Pacific Connector and the Jordan Cove projects offer many economic benefits. Here are some of them:

  • Pacific Connector represents a capital investment of $1.4 billion into the regional economy. The Jordan Cove LNG terminal would similarly invest approximately $4.5 billion.
  • Pacific Connector represents an average of 1,400 pipeline construction jobs over a two-year period. Jordan Cove represents an average of 1,700 terminal construction jobs during a three- to four-year construction period.
  • Approximately 100 permanent jobs to operate and maintain the pipeline and terminal facilities.
  • Roughly $11 million in annual tax revenue for Pacific Connector, divided across four counties.
  • Additional infrastructure to fuel southern Oregon’s economy.
  • Potential for providing gas service to additional customers.
  • Strengthening the U.S. balance of trade which benefits all U.S. citizens.

Q: Will this project allow natural gas service to my house/my neighborhood?

If the Pacific Connector is constructed, it will transport natural gas through many areas that currently don’t have access to natural gas. Pacific Connector capacity will be made available to large-volume industrial commercial and local distribution companies through an open season process. Private citizens would receive service from Pacific Connector through their local distribution company. If you’re interested in accessing clean energy from Pacific Connector, contact your local natural gas utility company or Hank Henrie at 801-584-6625, who can get you in contact with the appropriate utility representative.

Q: What types of industries or businesses would a natural gas pipeline attract to our area?

Natural gas can fuel a regional economy by providing clean energy for manufacturers, power generators, and industrial and commercial facilities. Companies that use natural gas will look at a community’s energy infrastructure as a factor for locating in that area.

Q: How many jobs will the project create?

The Pacific Connector and Jordan Cove projects represent significant employment opportunities during and after construction.

  • Pacific Connector represents an average of 1,400 pipeline construction jobs over a two-year period. Jordan Cove represents an average of 1,700 terminal construction jobs during a three- to four-year construction period.
  • Approximately 100 permanent jobs to operate and maintain the pipeline and terminal facilities.

Q: Why do I have to bear the impact of natural gas going to a foreign country and not my community?

Pacific Connector creates an opportunity for local distribution companies to provide natural gas service to citizens along the Pacific Connector in areas where gas supply has been traditionally unavailable or existing infrastructure is limited.

Q: How will you protect the environment in constructing this project?

Pacific Connector will comply with the regulatory requirements, permit conditions and stipulations in the federal and state permits required for the project. Best management practices will be used during construction and operation to avoid or minimize potential effects and mitigate unavoidable impacts through measures negotiated with the federal and state agencies having jurisdiction over those resources.

Environmental protection measures and best management practices have been incorporated into the project design through an extensive collaborative information-exchange process. The process that has been used includes input from various stakeholders (resource management agencies, environmental organizations, landowners and the general public) and incorporates this information into protection standards.

Incorporation of this input has resulted in the development and refinement of the following documents:

  • Pre-filing documents
  • Resource Reports
  • Draft Environmental Impact Statement
  • Final Environmental Impact Statement
  • FERC Certificate Conditions
  • Permit Applications

PCGP is continuing discussions with all federal, state and county agencies regarding permits and authorizations required for construction and operation.

Q: What impact will the project have on native fish, shellfish, fish habitat, migratory birds, endangered species and other sensitive environments?

The project’s impact on native fish, shellfish, fish habitat, migratory birds, endangered species, other sensitive environments and habitats will be fully described in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The FERC acts as the lead agency in the implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act process in cooperation with other federal agencies. The EIS will describe environmental protection measures and best management practices that have been incorporated into the project design to minimize and avoid potential effects, including conservation measures to mitigate unavoidable impacts. Thorough review of impacts with resource management agencies, environmental organizations, landowners and the public will continue through the current EIS and permitting process. A few examples of the many conservation measures that have been developed for the project include:

  • Conducting extensive routing studies to align the project to avoid geologic hazards to minimize the number of water body crossings, to avoid or minimize impacts to sensitive habitats and cultural resources and to ensure the long-term safety of the public and the integrity of the pipeline system.
  • Using “dry” crossing methods within the recommended work windows to cross water bodies.
  • Scheduling to efficiently construct the project while minimizing biological impacts, wet season construction and landowner/agricultural impacts.
  • Complying with federal and state permit conditions, which were developed to minimize impacts to natural resources.
  • Developing various construction, restoration and mitigation plans to avoid or minimize unavoidable impacts to sensitive species and resources.

Q: Who regulates the pipeline?

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) regulates interstate natural gas transmission pipelines. Before a pipeline company obtains authorization to construct and operate an interstate transmission pipeline, the company must first file a detailed project plan with the FERC. This plan is formally called an application for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (Certificate Application). The Certificate Application is a comprehensive document that describes the proposed project, its purpose, need and benefits, along with potential environmental impacts.