Xcel Opens New Gas Pipeline To Ready For The Shift From Coal

Oct 17, 2014

The natural gas pipeline is the largest project completed by the company in 20 years. The line travels through parts of Adams and Weld counties, and through Brighton, Commerce City and Fort Lupton, Colo.
Credit Mark Stutz / Xcel Energy

Xcel Energy just cranked open a new, 34-mile-long natural gas pipeline.

The $110 million underground pipeline crosses under the South Platte River, nine canals and three major roadways as it makes its way from Fort Lupton in Weld County to Xcel’s Cherokee Power plant near Commerce City.

The pipeline is part of Xcel’s plan to comply with the 2010 Clean Air Clean Jobs Act. It requires Xcel and other power companies to cut nitrous oxide emissions by up to 80 percent at several coal-fired power plants along the Front Range and northeastern plains by 2017.

To do that, the utility has retrofit some coal-fired plants to use natural gas while others have been decommissioned.

The new generating unit being constructed at the Cherokee power plant near Commerce City, where the pipeline flows to.
Credit Mark Stutz / Xcel Energy

Xcel Spokesman Mark Stutz said that Xcel’s 1.3 million customers will see a 2 percent increase in their bills to cover the cost of compliance with the Clean Air Clean Jobs Act, which is expected to be $1 billion.

“The impact of the pipeline as a stand-alone project will be much less than 2 percent; minimal and perhaps in terms of pennies, depending on what’s happening with prices and individual customer use,” Stutz wrote in an e-mail. “…we are in a period of relatively stable natural gas prices, lower than in early to mid-2000s. The price of natural gas by far has the greatest impact on customer bills on an annual basis; this project will not.”

Stutz said the pipeline meets and exceeds all federal and state standards and safety requirements, and will be continuously watched.

“We will monitor this pipeline 24 hours a day so that we will know if there’s an issue fairly quickly,” he said. “There are several points along the line, seven in total, where we will be able to shut off the flow of natural gas should there be an issue.”

The $110 million underground pipeline crosses under the South Platte River, nine canals and three major roadways.
Credit Mark Stutz / Xcel Energy