As one of the nation’s largest producers and transporters of energy, Dominion Resources Inc. has a portfolio that includes approximately 28,000 megawatts of generation and 6,300 miles of electric transmission lines. Through its natural gas division, Dominion Energy, the Richmond, Va.-based company manages 11,000 miles of natural gas transmission, gathering and storage pipeline, as well as 947 billion cubic feet of storage capacity throughout the Appalachian region.
Although Dominion Energy operates the nation’s largest natural gas storage system, it is not immune to competition, says Gary Sypolt, executive vice president of Dominion Resources Inc. and CEO of Dominion Energy. “There is a lot of competition in our business,” he acknowledges. “Our main advantage is that we are a safe and reliable service provider. We have a proven track record of developing projects on budget and on time.”
Sypolt also credits Dominion Energy’s success to the 3,100 talented individuals who keep the company’s operations running safely and smoothly. “Many of our folks have years of experience in this business,” he says. “They grew up in this business and understand it extremely well. They have proven time and again that they know how to get it done. Every success I’ve ever enjoyed I have to credit to my team because they do such a wonderful job.”
Dominion Energy is gearing up for what Sypolt describes as a “renaissance” in the natural gas industry. New methods, such as hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, have granted energy companies access to an abundant amount of natural gas. Because Dominion Energy provides the infrastructure that can take the gas directly from the wellhead all the way to the market, the company can partake in these major growth opportunities.
Most of the natural gas is being discovered in the Marcellus and Utica shales of the Appalachian region, which happens to be where Dominion Energy is based. “It’s amazing to see how much natural gas is being developed in our operating area,” Sypolt says. “We are ideally located to be able to take advantage of these opportunities to build new infrastructure and expand existing infrastructure to move this gas to market.”
Dominion Energy has embarked on a number of domestic projects to transfer and store natural gas coming from the Marcellus and Utica shales. It also has identified new opportunities to export natural gas to customers in other nations. “We currently have an import facility that sits on the Chesapeake Bay, but there has not been a lot of import lately as a result of the robust discoveries of natural gas in the shale formations and the lower natural gas price in the United States,” Sypolt says.
But since these recent discoveries have already identified a 100-year reserve of natural gas for the United States – with more waiting to be discovered and developed – Dominion Energy believes there is enough for other countries to share in the bounty. It currently is talking to markets in Europe and Asia, which have expressed a great deal of interest. “These additional market opportunities can keep drill bits running and keep jobs growing in the states that are fortunate to have these shale formations,” according to Sypolt.
Sypolt says natural gas can and will play an important role in U.S. energy needs because it is abundant, clean and affordable. “I actually think natural gas can be a major part of the economic recovery for the United States,” he asserts. “The economy is still rebounding, and that’s going to be a long process for the U.S. as well as globally. But I think that natural gas is now competitively priced to help revitalize the economy.
“I have met with Congressmen and women, and talked to them about economic conditions in the states that have these shale formations being developed. These have been thoroughly depressed areas that are now seeing an economic boom. [Congressmen and women] recognize that something fundamental has changed with regard to natural gas supply in the U.S. They have been fairly supportive and receptive to the discussion of the role natural gas can play and can clearly see its economic benefits.”
Because of the role natural gas could potentially play in the economic recovery, Dominion Energy will continue to grow “in a safe and reliable way,” Sypolt says. “We’re going to do projects that we know have a good market base because we’re not the kind of people who build on speculation. We know the market, and we build to meet it. But overall, I see continued growth at Dominion Energy because of the financial strength of the company, the talent of its employees and the assets that we have the opportunity to operate.”