Commissioner Philip Moeller of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) held a public meeting on September 18, 2014 to discuss ideas to facilitate and improve the way in which natural gas is traded and to explore the concept of establishing a centralized natural gas trading platform. Although not an official FERC conference, the ideas at issue were an extension of FERC’s recent focus on gas-electric coordination. During the well-attended meeting, Commissioner Moeller presided over a large roundtable discussion of stakeholders, including electric generation owners, natural gas producers, pipelines and marketers, who engaged in a spirited discussion of whether natural gas supplies are meeting the needs of electric generators and improvement in supply practices. The central focus of the meeting was the creation of a natural gas information and trading platform containing bids and offers for the purchase and sale of commodity and capacity for receipt and delivery on points across multiple pipeline systems.
Participants agreed that the natural gas industry is evolving and an increasing share of natural gas is being supplied to electric generators—customers with different needs than the local distribution companies the natural gas pipeline industry was traditionally designed to serve. Most participants further agreed that the needs of generators do not always align with pipelines’ traditional services.
Natural gas-fired generation owners voiced concerns regarding unknown or unreasonable commercial terms in pipeline service agreements, a lack of transparency surrounding available services and illiquidity in the natural gas market. Pipeline representatives highlighted the availability of new services such as extra nomination cycles, no-notice service and the ability to reverse flow as examples of services intended to accommodate generators. Nevertheless, the pipeline representatives also made the point that natural gas liquidity is outside pipelines’ control as they do not have title to the gas they transport. Marketers and organized exchange representatives added that they have been responding to generators’ needs by making available bespoke products and exploring new standardized products to match generators’ demands.
In addressing possible solutions to transparency and liquidity problems, most meeting participants urged incremental change and expressed a preference for industry solutions over FERC’s regulatory intervention. Electric generators preferred increased use of non-ratable service, no-notice service and new, shaped products. Other proposals included eliminating the shipper-must-have-title rule, facilitating competition between capacity release and pipeline overrun services and encouraging generators to purchase firm transportation service rather than interruptible service.
FERC has established a docket number to allow interested parties to file written comments on any issue that was discussed at the meeting. Comments are limited to five pages and are due by October 1, 2014.