Chicken/Egg Problem of Getting Cheap Marcellus Gas to NE Markets

One of the big stories over the winter months was the spike in price for natural gas around places like Boston and New York City (see The Wild Ride for NatGas Prices in the Northeast). At one point the price of natural gas sold near Boston briefly rocketed to over $120 per thousand cubic feet (Mcf). The price for the Algonquin Citygate (Boston) normally runs from $4-$11 or so. No problem. We live in a (somewhat) free, capitalistic economy, right? If there’s demand like that in the northeast, and there’s all this supply from the Marcellus right on the doorstep of these markets, it’s Marcellus to the rescue, right? Wrong.

Drillers certainly would love to supply more natural gas to the northeast, but lack of pipelines stands in the way. Complicating matters–a lot of the demand in the northeast comes from electric generating plants, and their demand fluctuates throughout the year based on electric loads. Because of strict regulations, electric plants won’t lock themselves into long-term contracts that may result in a higher prices because they would not be able to pass on the higher prices to consumers. It’s a quick way to go bankrupt. Pipeline companies will not build the new pipelines needed to get the gas from the Marcellus to northeast markets without long-term commitments. Electric generating plants won’t commit long-term. Chicken and egg…

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