The natural gas pipeline infrastructure in the United States is experiencing the largest wave of expansion since the early 1960s, according to Industrial Information Resources Inc. (IIR). Since 1997, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has granted permits for 55 major onshore and offshore natural gas pipeline projects totaling more than 7,800 miles of pipeline, representing an industry investment of more than $10 billion. These projects are in various stages of planning, engineering and construction.

By far the largest project under construction now is the $1.2 billion Gulf Stream project entailing more than 700 miles of 36-in. natural gas transmission pipeline being constructed from the Mobile, Ala. area to Palm Beach County in Florida, which will mainly supply the growing electricity generation market in South Florida. Soon to follow in the next three to four months will be 15 new and major expansion projects worth $2.2 billion, such as Florida Gas Transmission's $438 million Phase V pipeline expansion.

In the long term, 25,000 miles of natural gas transmission pipeline will be constructed by 2010 and an additional 13,000 miles by 2015. Estimates range up to 275,000 miles or more of distribution pipelines.

Many forces are working in conjunction to promote this growth, such as consumer demand, gas-fired electrical generation, existing pipelines nearing capacity and an energy friendly White House. In an interview that recently aired as part of CNN's Lou Dobbs Moneyline, IIR president and CEO Ed Lewis said, "Everybody is concerned with energy getting out of hand to a point where it is impacting growth, so there is a growing acceptance for at least the government supporting the policies necessary in order to move forward."

IIR tracks information on construction and trends in various industrial sectors. It can be visited at