More natural gas infrastructure proposed for second Charles City plant

By: - December 20, 2019 12:01 am
The State Corporation Commission

The State Corporation Commission regulates Virginia electric utilities. (Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury)

More natural gas infrastructure may be on the way in Virginia as plans move forward for a major new plant in Charles City County.

No, not the Chickahominy Power Station. A different privately financed natural gas plant known as C4GT is driving a recent application by Virginia Natural Gas to construct 24 new miles of pipeline, build two new compressor stations and expand an existing facility in Ladysmith.

The new infrastructure, said Virginia Natural Gas media relations manager Rick DelaHaya, is “required for Virginia Natural Gas to meet its legal obligation to provide the facility a pathway to source clean and reliable natural gas.”

The improvements will also offer existing customers additional capacity and help the utility maintain reliability, according to DelaHaya and company filings with the Virginia State Corporation Commission.

Expected to produce 1,060 megawatts of power, C4GT if built would be one of the state’s largest natural gas plants, likely capable of powering several hundred thousand homes. (Dominion’s 1,358-megawatt Brunswick natural gas plant, for example, can provide electricity to 340,000 homes.)

It would, however, be smaller than the 1,600-megawatt Chickahominy Power Station being planned less than a mile away. 

And if both are built, even more infrastructure might have to be added to Virginia Natural Gas’ network: The current system doesn’t have the capacity to serve C4GT, and the plans submitted by the utility to the State Corporation Commission were tailored specifically to that facility’s needs, said DelaHaya.

“Any additional significant customers may require a separate system improvement,” he said.

The upgrades and additions, which commission filings say would more than double the natural gas system’s capacity, are estimated to cost $346 million. Just under two-thirds of that would go toward the construction of new pipeline, with the remaining dollars allocated to two new compressor stations in Prince William County and the city of Chesapeake, and the expansion of the existing Ladysmith compressor station in Caroline County. 

VNG map
An expansion plan submitted by Virginia Natural Gas to the State Corporation Commission to meet the needs of the planned C4GT natural gas plant and increase system capacity.

C4GT, Columbia Gas of Virginia and Virginia Power Services Energy, a subsidiary of Dominion Energy, would be responsible for paying 94 percent of that expense. The remaining costs — about $20 million over 20 years — would be paid by Virginia Natural Gas customers. 

An uptick after a lull

C4GT did not return a call to talk about the progress of the project, but the filing by Virginia Natural Gas indicates that after a lull of several years, plans are moving forward once again. 

Developed by Michigan-based NOVI Energy, C4GT first came to public attention in 2016, when it applied for a certificate of public convenience and necessity from the State Corporation Commission. In early 2018, the company signed a performance agreement with Charles City County hammering out revenues the county would receive and acreage and fast-tracking of permits C4GT would get in return.

After the initial stir, however, the project seemed to slow down. 

This spring, the developers asked the state to extend the certification required to begin construction, citing “unexpected change” in the market for new electric generation facilities.

At the time the project was proposed, C4GT told the State Corporation Commission, the company “was expecting strong interest from investors. However, in 2017, the near-term market for additional electric generating capacity in the … region changed causing investor interest in such projects to decline.”

The commission granted the extension, giving NOVI two more years to pull together financing to begin construction. At the time, the developers expressed optimism that they would be able to obtain the necessary investment by the last quarter of 2019.

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Sarah Vogelsong
Sarah Vogelsong

Sarah is Editor-in-Chief of the Mercury and previously its environment and energy reporter. She has worked for multiple Virginia and regional publications, including Chesapeake Bay Journal, The Progress-Index and The Caroline Progress. Her reporting has won awards from groups such as the Society of Environmental Journalists and Virginia Press Association, and she is an alumna of the Columbia Energy Journalism Initiative and Metcalf Institute Science Immersion Workshop for Journalists.