Intelligence brief: Regulators reject Atlantic Coast Pipeline route; Mexico exploring transport of US gas to Cuba

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View from Monongahela National Forest, looking east toward George Washington National Forest (Image credit: Valerius Tygart)

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US regulators reject Atlantic Coast Pipeline route

The US Forest Service has rejected the proposed route of the $5 billion, 564-mile (885 km) Atlantic Coast Pipeline over its potential impact on endangered animals in the Monongahela and George Washington national forests.

In a letter to the developers, the USFS said an alternative route must avoid the habitats of the Cheat Mountain salamander, Cow Knob salamander, and West Virginia Northern Flying squirrel, and spruce-forest restoration areas.

The USFS will need to review a contingency plan to route the pipeline across another section of the George Washington National Forest, because that plan hinges on successfully accomplishing horizontal directional drilling to cross under the Appalachian National Scenic Trail and Blue Ridge Parkway, the letter added.

Dominion Virginia Power and Duke Energy, who lead the consortium developing the pipeline, did not immediately make public comment on the decision. The pipeline is supposed to transport natural gas from the West Virginia Marcellus Shale to Virginia and North Carolina.

Regulators have rejected the proposed route of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, marked in blue, through two national forests (Image credit: Dominion Virginia Power)

Mexico open to sending US gas to Cuba

A 55-year-old American trade embargo on Cuba remains in place despite a diplomatic thaw between the two countries, but gas produced in the United States could be exported to Cuba under a plan being considered by the Mexican government.

Economy minister Idelfonso Guajardo told a press conference that the idea was in “an exploratory phase”, the Financial Times and Mexican media reported. He said the idea was first raised by Emilio Lozoya, chief executive of Mexican state oil company Pemex, to Cuban President Raul Castro during Castro’s visit to Mexico last year.

According to the media reports, Guajardo said a proposed shallow-water gas pipeline down the coast of the Gulf of Mexico from Texas to southern Mexico could supply the gas. But he said the gas would not necessarily be American, because once US gas enters Mexican pipelines it is indistinguishable from domestically produced gas.

Guajardo said Mexico had not set a deadline for the project, and noted that the gas could be shipped to Cuba in compressed form, eliminating the need for a liquefied natural gas plant.

Cuba and Mexico are 96 miles from each other at their closest point. A number of companies are developing technologies to improve the economics of exporting compressed natural gas over short distances.

Siemens to supply Mexico combined-cycle plant

Siemens has received an order to supply two H-class gas turbines to a combined-cycle power plant in Mexico, bringing to six the number of orders it has received for the turbines from Mexico since the second quarter of 2015 and 76 the number it has sold worldwide.

The company said it would deliver the two SGT6-8000H gas turbines, plus two SGen6-2000H generators, to the Empalme II plant in Sonora, northern Mexico. The plant will have an installed electrical capacity of 791 megawatts. It is being built by a consortium of two Spanish engineering and construction companies, and will be operated by the state-owned Federal Electricity Commission. Commercial operation is scheduled for April 2018.

In addition to the two H-class gas turbines destined for Empalme II, Siemens is supplying two H-class turbines to the 770 MW Empalme I plant, two H-class turbines to the 665 MW Valle de Mexico plant, and two F-class turbines to the Tula plant in Hidalgo. The four power plants have a combined electrical capacity of 2,727 MW, enough to supply one million households in Mexico with electricity, according to Siemens.