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Natural gas 'fracking' has flipped US energy map, study says

In a reversal from the recent past, the Northeast has become a net supplier of natural gas and the South a net consumer, thanks to 'fracking,' according to a new study.


A drilling rig is set up near a barn in Springville, Pa., to tap gas from the giant Marcellus Shale gas field in this 2011 file photo.

Alex Brandon/AP/File

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Natural gas pipelines that for a half century sent natural gas flowing northward from energy-rich Gulf Coast states to heat and power the megacities of the chilly Northeast are seeing a role reversal. Northeast shale-gas discoveries are now being pumped in the opposite direction to meet rising industrial demand in the Southeast.

That switch in the status quo presents enormous infrastructure challenges while also promising big economic gains. Existing natural gas pipelines configured to send natural gas northward for winter heating and electricity generation will have to be reconfigured to send new gas supplies in the opposite direction, according to a new national study of gas demand.

As a result, at least 40 Northeast gas pipeline expansions are planned, with 20 geared toward sending gas to the Southeast, according to the new report by Bentek Energy, a subsidiary of Platts, a global energy information provider.

“Based on our latest modeling, the US is embarking on a true sea change,” said Rocco Canonica, lead author of the 10-year outlook, in a statement. “The Northeast is poised to switch from the nation’s largest demand region to a net supply region, and the US Southeast is racing to become a much larger net demand region after being a major supplier to the US gas market.”

More than one-third of projected growth in US natural gas production between 2013 and 2023 is expected in the Northeast region in just two massive shale beds called the Marcellus and Utica formations. As a result of new gas flowing from the Northeast as well as Texas and North Dakota, gas prices have fallen by half compared with the 2005-2010 average.


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