We have an interesting challenge ahead of us. One of the take-aways of FERC Order 809 is the requirement for the North American Energy Standards Board (NAESB) to look at and consider ways to make natural gas pipeline scheduling faster and closer to real time. Electric generators have made it clear that they need more flexibility with scheduling as they move more electric generation to a natural gas dependency.
This is not a new idea. It has been tossed about more than once before Order 809. One of the very first principles written by NAESB in GISB Version 1.0 in the mid-1990’s was Principle 1.1.2 which states “There should be a standard for the nominations and confirmations process. Agreement notwithstanding, it is recognized that this is an interim step to continuous and contiguous scheduling.” (Copyright North American Energy Standards Board, NAESB Version 3.0 published 2014)
NAESB quickly, in Version 1.0, created the standardized Nominations and Confirmations processes including a few touches on the scheduling process in that mix. A great step was made when NAESB added the Intraday Cycles and now, via NAESB 3.0 and Order 809, there is an additional Intraday Cycle giving shippers a total of 5 nomination opportunities in the day-ahead and day-of scheduling process.
And that’s not all.
Some pipelines have already implemented multiple scheduling cycles throughout the day that are in addition to the NAESB cycles. A few pipelines have gone so far as to create hourly cycles. But without a consistent solution, the ‘contiguous’ side of scheduling becomes difficult.
Not all pipelines have gone beyond the standard cycles. So, what do we do? Are we ready for that ‘Continuous and Contiguous’ process that we considered so long ago?
I believe we are. I believe that it will require some serious paradigm-shift-type thinking to make it happen.
The actual excerpt from Order 809 is below, from the Commission request, and as noted in paragraph 107:
However, the use of computerized scheduling would appear to provide an opportunity for faster and more frequent scheduling of intraday nominations for those shippers and their confirming parties willing to commit to scheduling electronically. We request that gas and electric industries, through NAESB, explore the potential for faster, computerized scheduling when shippers and confirming parties all submit electronic nominations and confirmations, including a streamlined confirmation process if necessary. Providing such an option would enable those entities that need greater scheduling flexibility to have their requests processed expeditiously.
What are the opportunities here?
- If we converted the nomination and confirmation processes to XML based transactions and generated the confirmation request straight from the requested nomination then we could have more immediate communication and create that contiguous chain.
- If we kept our traditional ‘Timely’ Scheduling cycle, possibly even the ‘Evening’ cycle and then, after that, opened the process to a first come, first serve processing with a quick turnaround, then we could eliminate the interim cycles and provide that continuous service.
- We would still need a no-bump cutoff where IT shippers could count on their gas to flow. Possibly at the time of the current cutoff already agreed to in NAESB.
These ideas require major technology investments. These are just a few ideas. I have others, but I’d like to hear from other people first.
The NAESB Board has voted to make this aspect of Order 809 a primary topic in 2016. As an industry, we need problem solvers to step up and create straw man solutions before those NAESB meetings begin. Let’s get the discussion started.