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Changes in Latitudes, Part 2 - Northeast Gas Pulled South by Florida Power Plants and Sabal Trail

Florida’s electric utilities are turning to natural gas-fired power and renewables for all their incremental generation needs and as replacements for the older coal units they’ve been retiring. The state’s big bet on natural gas has been spurring the development of new pipelines. And, because of big shifts in where gas is being produced and where it’s flowing, the Sunshine State will soon be receiving an increasing share of its gas needs from the Marcellus region. Today, we discuss the slew of new gas-fired power plants that have come online, the additional plants planned, and gas flows on Sabal Trail, the first new gas mainline into the state in almost two decades.

We first discussed Sabal Trail five years ago, in Mickey Mouse Gas Hub in Orlando?, then looked at the coming flows of gas from the Marcellus/Utica region four and a half years ago, in a blog called Miami 2017 and more recently — just before Sabal Trail started operating in mid-2017 — in Mainline Florida. With more than a year of Sabal Trail operational history in the books and Florida’s seasonal weather as hot and humid as modern man and woman can bear, we decided it was time for an update. As we said in Part 1 of this two-part series, Florida is a leading generator of electricity — second only to Texas, in fact — and in recent years its electric utilities have been particularly aggressive in their shift from coal (and nuclear) generation to gas. That spurred the development of the 1.1-Bcf/d Sabal Trail Pipeline, which runs more than 500 miles from an interconnect with Williams’s Transcontinental Gas Pipeline (Transco) in west-central Alabama to the Orlando-area gas hub (black dot in Figure 1). A related pipeline called Florida Southeast Connection delivers gas from that hub into South Florida. Sabal Trail — in service since May 2017 — increased to three the number of gas mainlines serving the state, the other two being the 3.1-Bcf/d Florida Gas Transmission and the 1.3-Bcf/d Gulfstream Natural Gas System.

Sabal Trail was co-sponsored by Enbridge and the corporate parents of Florida’s two largest electric utilities: NextEra Resources (parent of Florida Power & Light, or FPL), and Duke Energy (parent of Duke Energy Florida). FPL — the third-largest electric utility in the U.S., with 4.9 million customers — in the past five-plus years has added three large, gas-fired combined-cycle plants to its generation fleet; taken together, they can generate more than 4,000 megawatts (MW). Recall that combined-cycle plants are workhorses that typically operate 60 to 70% of the time. FPL also has added about 1,150 MW of new, simple-cycle combustion turbines, which operate only during peak demand periods. The utility currently is building the 1,750-MW Okeechobee Clean Energy Center, a combined-cycle plant scheduled to come online in June 2019. The new Okeechobee plant (green dot) will receive 400 MMcf/d of gas from a recently approved 5.2-mile lateral stemming from NextEra’s Florida Southeast Connection. Further south, FPL is planning to build a new, 1,150-MW combined-cycle plant at its Dania Beach station in Broward County (yellow dot) to replace two units of 1990s vintage. (No additional gas pipeline infrastructure is needed at the location.) The utility expects the new Dania Beach plant to begin operations in 2022.

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