Pipeline heavyweight Williams Cos. is expected to file initial paperwork soon with federal energy regulators on a large pipeline expansion project in the Southeast.
The proposal — known as the Southeast Supply Enhancement project — aims to “provide reliable natural gas deliveries” to Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia and Alabama, according to the company’s website. It would expand the existing capacity of the sprawling Transcontinental pipeline, which runs roughly 10,000 miles from Texas to New York.
A timeline posted on Williams’ website says the company aims to “pre-file” with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in spring 2024, following initial public outreach that began in winter 2023. The company could then file an application with FERC in the fall of this year.
The project is slated to include modifications to existing compressor and meter stations that help regulate the flow of natural gas, as well as about 55 miles of pipeline. The pipeline would be adjacent to existing Transcontinental, or Transco, corridors in Virginia and North Carolina, company materials showed.
Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Williams did not respond Wednesday to requests for comment.
The planned expansion of the Transco system comes as the Biden administration’s Department of Energy has announced a pause on approving pending and future liquefied natural gas export projects as it reviews how exports affect energy costs, domestic energy security and the environment. That decision has drawn pushback from the gas industry and applause from environmental groups.
On an earnings call in November 2023, Williams CEO Alan Armstrong said the company had signed “precedent agreements” of more than 1.4 billion cubic feet per day for the Southeast project, which would provide takeaway capacity from a compressor station in southern Virginia.
“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 Wednesday.
He said it would be “the largest pipeline project proposed in our region since those projects came along about 10 years ago.” Buppert said he suspects some of the proposed capacity may be aimed at gas exports.
But utilities across the Southeast might also turn to the pipeline extension for new fuel. Several power providers in the region have come under scrutiny for proposals this year to add record amounts of gas-fired generation.
It’s “probably enough to run five or six big, new gas plants,” Buppert said.
The project would take advantage of Williams’ existing right of way, Armstrong said on the November earnings call, and would be structured in a way that would “provide the least points of resistance from a permitting standpoint.”
“So we are proceeding into the permitting process for this initial project due to the urgent demands to be met for this first group of customers,” he said, according to a transcript of the call.