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CenterPoint’s Walter Bryant on the Stability of Low Natural Gas Prices

3 min read

Walter Bryant is CenterPoint Energy’s division vice president of regional operations in Arkansas and Oklahoma, serving more than 500,000 natural gas customers.

Bryant has been with CenterPoint Energy for 32 years, serving in various management and executive positions for both the electric and natural gas side of the business. He has worked in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Oklahoma; he has worked in Arkansas since 2006. He has a business degree from Mississippi State University and currently serves as a board member of the Arkansas State Chamber and Arkansas’ Independent Colleges & Universities.

Q: The natural gas boom — glut, even — truly has lived up to the hype as cheap domestic energy. How much has the low price of natural gas saved CenterPoint customers during the past couple of years? And what is CenterPoint projecting for gas prices in the future?

A: The cost of natural gas sold to our customers has decreased nearly 45 percent during the past four years as a result of the natural gas boom. For a typical residential customer, this represents significant annual savings of approximately $265 compared with just a few years ago. CenterPoint Energy expects natural gas prices to remain relatively low and stable in the near to intermediate term, with gas prices in Arkansas ranging from about $4 to $6 per mmbtu during the next five years.

How has the persistent low price of natural gas changed the utility industry?

Lower prices due to the abundant supply of natural gas in Arkansas and across the U.S., along with the fact that natural gas is a clean, domestic resource, have been a game changer for the utility industry as power plants are switching to natural gas to produce electricity and manufacturers who went overseas are returning to the U.S., bringing jobs to our communities. In addition, we have seen a renewal in using natural gas as a transportation fuel, and CenterPoint Energy is prepared to build the infrastructure to meet these needs.

What does the formation of Enable Midstream Partners mean for gas utility customers in Arkansas?

Enable Midstream Partners is a master limited partnership that includes CenterPoint Energy’s interstate pipelines and field services businesses and the midstream business of Enogex. Arkansas customers will not be impacted by this new partnership and will continue to receive the same safe, reliable, low-cost natural gas service they receive today.

Ford Motor Co. says it’s going to make a CNG-fueled F150. Are CNG fueling stations part of CenterPoint’s future business plan?

CenterPoint Energy is excited about the growing interest in compressed natural gas as a transportation fuel. While we do not currently have plans to own or maintain CNG fueling stations in Arkansas, we are working with municipalities and individual companies to provide natural gas to serve stations. We currently serve two public CNG stations — one in Damascus and one in North Little Rock. By the end of this year we anticipate providing service to four new public CNG stations located in Conway, Little Rock and Jonesboro, and are in discussions with other parties to develop CNG stations along the I-30 and I-40 corridors, which would support interstate travel. Given the economic and environmental benefits of CNG, we currently have nine CNG vehicles in our Arkansas fleet, with plans to convert the majority of our fleet to CNG as the infrastructure develops. We also believe that the recent legislation passed by the state Legislature in the last session (Act 532 of 2013), providing rebates for CNG vehicle purchases and conversions as well as for new CNG stations and home fueling infrastructure, will further the growth of the CNG market in Arkansas.

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