Nova Scotia

NSP looks to U.S. to cover natural gas ‘uncertainties’

Nova Scotia Power is negotiating with pipeline companies in the United States to import natural gas to produce electricity.

About 20% of Nova Scotia’s electricity comes from natural gas

In this Feb. 28, 2008 file photo, rail cars arrive in Milton, N.D., loaded with pipe for the first Keystone Pipeline project. With continuing delays at Nova Scotia's newest offshore platform, the province’s utility is looking at the economics of bringing in natural gas from the United States. (Grand Forks Herald, Eric Hylden/AP Photo)

Nova Scotia Power is negotiating with pipeline companies in the United States to import natural gas to produce electricity, according to the utility’s vice president of power generation and delivery.

The utility said it needs more gas to replace coal-fired plants in Cape Breton and is looking to make a deal with a pipeline to source gas from different suppliers. 

"It’s one of the larger uncertainties we will actually face into the future," Mark Sidebottom told a recent Maritime Link hearing about nailing down a supply of natural gas. He’s charged with generating electricity at Nova Scotia Power.

About 20 per cent of Nova Scotia’s electricity comes from natural gas. Prices shot up last winter after some production delays at the Sable Offshore Energy Project. Deep Panuke, the offshore natural gas production facility, is more than two years late and is hundreds of millions of dollars over the original forecast.

The first gas from Panuke will be delivered later this month and could ease concerns, but the utility said it will still need to import shale gas.

"That’s why we are exploring options in the U.S. and talking to pipelines about expansions," said Sidebottom.

Federal regulations require that six of Nova Scotia's eight coal-powered generators be eliminated by 2030.

By 2040 natural gas will generate 30 per cent of Nova Scotia’s electricity. Maybe more, Sidebottom said, if the Utility and Review Board rejects the Maritime Link.

"We could see a reliance of almost 60 per cent on natural gas in the case with wind, and it’s substantially less, almost half that amount, with the Maritime Link," he said.

Nova Scotia Power’s parent company is a minority partner in the Muskrat Falls project and is responsible for the Maritime Link, which may see as much as 40 per cent of the electricity from the 824-megawatt project moved to Cape Breton by subsea cables.

The project could see ratepayers footing the bill for the next 35 years.