Natural gas pipeline construction plummets

The United States in 2012 added its lowest total of new natural pipeline mileage since 1997, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. (Graph: EIA)

New natural gas pipeline construction sagged in 2012 to the lowest level since 1997, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Just 367 new miles of natural gas pipelines were added last year, compared with more than 2,000 miles added in 2011.

Although natural gas prices have fallen in recent years, the drop in building of pipelines appears to be a surprise, since large gas production is expected for decades at locations throughout the nation.

The figure also seemed to contradict a 2011 study by the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, which projected rapid natural gas pipeline growth through 2035. And companies have said that natural gas pipeline infrastructure needs to grow to help encourage wider use of the resource.

The region that added the most new pipeline mileage was the Northeast, where natural gas production from the Marcellus shale region has brought about abundant new supplies of the resource. The area added 245 miles of new pipelines.

Spokespeople from the American Gas Association and the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America did not immediately respond to inquiries on the low pipeline additions.