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Williams Plans Expansion of Gas Pipeline Network in Virginia

Pipeline operator Williams Cos. is preparing for a major expansion of its pipeline network in the Southeastern United States, E&E News reported.

The upcoming project, named the Southeast Supply Enhancement project, aims to enhance the delivery of natural gas to states such as Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, and Alabama. This expansion will increase the capacity of the Transcontinental pipeline network, which spans approximately 10,000 miles from Texas to New York.

Williams intends to initiate the pre-filing process with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in the spring of 2024, following public engagements that began in winter 2023, the company said on its website. Subsequently, the company plans to submit a formal application to FERC later in the year.

The proposed project includes upgrades to existing compressor and meter stations, as well as the installation of approximately 55 miles of additional pipeline infrastructure. These extensions are designed to align with existing Transcontinental corridors in Virginia and North Carolina.

The Tulsa, Oklahoma-based pipeline operator, declined to comment on the matter.

The expansion of the Transcontinental network coincides with the Biden administration’s recent decision to pause the approval process for both pending and future LNG export projects. This decision is part of a broader review examining the impacts of exports on energy costs, domestic energy security, and environmental sustainability. The move has elicited mixed reactions, with industry stakeholders expressing concern and environmental advocates voicing support.

During an earnings call in November 2023, Williams CEO Alan Armstrong revealed that the company had secured “precedent agreements” exceeding 1.4 billion cubic feet per day for the Southeastern project, enabling gas takeaway from a compressor station in southern Virginia, according to E&E News.

“It’s an expansion on the order of the size of the Atlantic Coast pipeline or the Mountain Valley pipeline, so really big,” Greg Buppert, a senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, told E&E News on Jan. 31.

Greg Buppert, a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center, described the proposed endeavor as the most significant pipeline expansion in the region since the aforementioned projects emerged approximately a decade ago.

Buppert told E&E News that he anticipates a portion of the increased capacity might be aimed at gas exports. However, regional utilities could also benefit from the extended pipeline for additional fuel supply, particularly amid proposals for expanded gas-fired power generation.

Williams plans to utilize existing right-of-way privileges for the project, aiming to streamline the permitting process and minimize regulatory hurdles. Armstrong stressed the importance of meeting the demands of initial customers, highlighting the project’s structured approach to permitting during the earnings call, E&E News reported.

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