SAVE program complements a recent study on how natural gas distribution companies can reach net-zero using existing safe and reliable infrastructure
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. –Sept. 16, 2022 – With a commitment to environment and sustainability efforts, Virginia Natural Gas (VNG) is reducing direct greenhouse gas emissions through innovation and the use of its existing safe and reliable infrastructure.
In a recent landmark study released earlier this year by VNG’s parent company, Southern Company Gas, consulting firm ICF details pathways for VNG to support Southern Company’s goals to reach net-zero direct greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The pathways reveal that the use of the existing safe and reliable natural gas infrastructure is foundational to supporting a net-zero, clean energy future with the greatest consumer affordability.
One of the ways VNG is already reducing emissions is through the modernization of its existing natural gas infrastructure to ensure the continued safety and reliability of the system. Through the company’s Steps to Advance Virginia’s Energy Program (SAVE), VNG is renewing its natural gas infrastructure by replacing aging pipes with new, more durable materials that are less expensive to maintain and help reduce methane emissions.
“At Virginia Natural Gas, the safe, reliable delivery of natural gas is our top priority as we continue to modernize our pipeline infrastructure throughout our service territory,” said Robert Duvall, president of Virginia Natural Gas. “While our current system is safe and has performed well, as technology has advanced, it’s critical to continually upgrade our pipeline system. It is more important than ever to make progress in safety and environmental goals simultaneously, keeping our employees’ and customers’ interests top of mind while also contributing to nationwide and global environmental goals.”
Virginia Natural Gas received approval for a plan to expedite the replacement of aging infrastructure by the Virginia State Corporation Commission (VSCC) through the SAVE Act. The program allowed VNG to launch an aggressive multi-year program, replacing nearly 500 miles of the aging pipeline since the program began in 2012, resulting in a more than 27% reduction in methane emissions. Additionally, 100% of the system’s low-pressure cast iron pipeline was retired in 2018.
“The amount of pipeline we have replaced and upgraded in our system these past 10 years is the approximate driving distance from Virginia Beach to Savannah, Georgia,” said Amanda Bouchonville, SAVE Program manager at VNG. “The new plastic pipes we are installing are more flexible and can better withstand our region’s weather extremes. Upgrading this infrastructure will result in reduced maintenance costs, enhanced system reliability, reduced emissions and increased safety for many years to come.”
Since 2019, VNG has invested nearly $184 million of the $360 million authorized on SAVE infrastructure projects, and this year, will invest up to $70 million in the community to ensure the reliability and safety of its system and continue to reduce emissions that will contribute to broader emissions reduction goals.
In addition to enhanced safety and reliability, the company expects that accelerating the rate of construction projects will further support both Southern Company’s and the state’s environmental goals.
“Our SAVE projects will allow us to continue to make substantial capital improvements to modernize our system to ensure safety, durability and reliability for our customers for years to come,” added Duvall. “Investing in our infrastructure is important to achieving meaningful environmental progress.”
Along with SAVE pipeline modernization projects, other emission reduction efforts at VNG include innovative technologies for environmental work, such as the use of artificial intelligence to predict third-party damages to critical infrastructure and the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for inspections of critical infrastructure, right-of-way assessments, and the inspection of more than 5,500 miles of gas pipeline.
Additionally, VNG is reducing emissions by using innovative cross-compression technologies to capture natural gas removed during operations activities and reinsert it back into the pipeline system for continued use. This results in less gas or methane entering the atmosphere.
“Our sustainability goals and activities align with the key pillars and goals of our parent company, Southern Company Gas,” added Duvall. The steps we are taking today are a roadmap for achieving concrete goals, leveraging existing initiatives and exploring opportunities that meet both unique energy demand and emission targets.”