Katelyn Armbruster: Pipeline Build-Out in Pennsylvania

Intensified natural gas extraction in the Marcellus Shale means more supplies needing to get to markets. Some 4,600 miles of interstate transmission gas pipelines are expected to appear in Pennsylvania within three years (“Your guide”, n.d.). The Nature Conservancy expects an even larger build-out of 25,000 miles of new pipelines to emerge over the next decade (Johnson, Gagnolet, Ralls, and Stevens, 2011). The importance of pipeline infrastructure is growing with the enormous increase in natural gas supplies accessed by new drilling techniques.

Pennsylvania is the second largest producer of natural gas in the country, but insufficient pipelines are hampering the extent of domestic gas resources. While thousands of fracturing well pads have been drilled to extract natural gas, the pipelines that connect them to the market are not there. A third of the wells drilled since 2004 have not been tapped due to this lack of pipeline infrastructure. An implication of this pipeline build-out is rapid clearing of 300,000 acres of forest, roughly one percent of the total area in the state (“Governor’s Infrastructure”, 2015). A part of the reason that pressure for new pipelines exists is because of the country’s domestic energy plan that prioritizes development of domestic energy resources. Natural gas is considered a cleaner fuel and domestic resources mean less reliance of foreign sources, so expanding this natural gas resource from well-head to consumer has been set as a priority by the government.