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Natural Gas System in Colorado

Natural Gas System in Colorado

We supply natural gas to 1.3 million customers directly

Xcel Energy buys, transports, resells and distributes natural gas in Colorado. We meet more than 70 percent of the need for natural gas in the state. We sell the commodity to 1.3 million customers directly and have another 4,700 customers who use our natural gas pipelines to move their natural gas supplies.

We own and maintain approximately 24,000 miles of natural gas pipeline – including 21,242 miles of distribution and 2,301 miles of transmission pipeline – plus two natural gas storage fields and three processing plants. Our pipeline network extends from the San Juan Basin to the San Luis Valley and the Front Range into Wyoming.

At the stations, the pressure is lowered and the natural gas is moved through usually smaller diameter distribution pipelines (also known as service mains and service lines) to homes and businesses. Distribution pipelines are generally located underground in easements along roads and highways. A distribution service line typically delivers gas via an underground line in the yards of homes (the specific location is determined by the line’s connection to the service main.)

One challenge for natural gas pipes is corrosion. We have two Integrity Management Programs under way in Colorado to proactively identify and address problems before they affect the safety and reliability of our service.

  • The Transmission Integrity Management Program  focuses on transmission pipelines. The West Main Replacement project – serving Fort Collins, Loveland, Longmont and Boulder –and the Edwards-to-Minturn project in Chaffee, Grand, Lake and Summit counties are examples of TIMP work. 
  • The Distribution Integrity Management Program focuses on the maintenance of natural gas distribution pipelines.

Both programs are required by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which directs us to assess pipeline conditions, recheck them periodically and develop and implement plans to ensure reliability and safety. Behind-the-scenes work for integrity management includes data acquisition, improvements in recording and documenting compliance work, and new risk software that enables us to identify and weigh the relative risks on various pipe segments.

In December 2010, we filed a natural gas rate case to cover costs for projects that serve many Colorado communities and are critical to a safe and reliable natural gas system. If approved, the project funding would be shown as a new item on your bill in 2012 called the Pipeline System and Integrity Adjustment. Across the country, pipeline operators of natural gas transmission and hazardous liquid pipelines are required to post colored markers along rights-of-way and easements to indicate the pipeline’s presence, but not necessarily the exact location of the underground pipelines. The markers also show the product carried, such as natural gas, and the operator’s 24-hour emergency contact information.

Several Xcel Energy power plants use natural gas to produce electricity, including Fort St. Vrain, Blue Spruce Energy Center and Rocky Mountain Energy Center. Today natural gas is a more viable power plant fuel. New drilling techniques have increased supplies and made it more affordable. It also is a cleaner fuel and produces significantly lower greenhouse gas and air emissions than other fossil fuels.

Natural gas is a key component of our implementation of Colorado’s Clean Air – Clean Jobs Act – state legislation enacted in spring of 2010 that requires regulated utilities to work to reduce emissions from coal-fired power plants. It was prompted by the threat of federal intervention into air regulation in the Denver metro area, due to noncompliance with multiple pending air mandates. Without the legislation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency  likely would have unilaterally mandated a compliance program for the state in early 2011. The comprehensive approach taken in Clean Air – Clean Jobs will be more cost effective than an EPA process.

Under the act, we are required to develop a multi-year plan to reduce our emissions of nitrogen oxides by 70 to 80 percent or greater from 900 megawatts of coal-fired generation by 2018 and meet “reasonably foreseeable” environmental requirements. The average annual rate impact over the next 10 years is estimated to be about 2 percent, as we retire the coal-fired unit at Valmont Station in Boulder and three units at Cherokee Station in Denver and replace the generation with power produced by a new, cleaner natural gas plant. We also will reduce emissions from 951 megawatts of coal-fired electric generation by installing modern emissions controls.

 

Choose your state

Our products and services differ based on state. Please select your state (or the state you're interested in) from the list to the left.

Why do our products and services differ based on state? Because our business is regulated by state. We have regulated operations in eight Western and Midwestern states. The different regulatory body for each state we serve determines what products and services we deliver in that state.