Florida Power & Light on Dec. 19 will issue a request for proposals to develop one or both parts of a planned 700-mile, multibillion-dollar natural gas pipeline, FPL said Dec. 10.

The 560-mile “upstream” portion would run from west-central Alabama to near Orlando; the 140-mile “downstream” portion would run from Orlando to FPL’s Martin power station in southern Florida, said FPL spokesman Richard Gibbs. Both portions must be operational by May 2017.

Respondents to the RFP will propose specific routes, Gibbs said, noting that the total cost of the project will depend the proposals offered. FPL in 2009 proposed building a 280-mile gas pipeline within Florida that the utility estimated would cost $1.53 billion. However, the Florida Public Service Commission in 2009 rejected that plan, explaining that while FPL will need more natural gas to fire its expanding gas-fired generation fleet, the commission was not convinced that FPL’s proposal represented the most cost-effective alternative.

In its ruling, the PSC directed FPL to undertake a new examination of its gas-supply alternatives and, when it does so, to fully explore through competitive bidding the alternatives for securing the gas-transmission capacity it needs. That is the aim of the new plan and RFP.

FPL’s gas capacity needs from the new pipeline will rise from 400,000 MMBtu/day in May 2017 to 600,000 MMBtu/day in May 2020, and the utility will retain options to increase its gas-capacity needs by another 200,000 MMBtu/day by 2020 and still another 200,000 MMBtu/day by 2024.

FPL will post the RFP on its website this coming Dec. 19, and will hold a “pre-proposal workshop” at its Juno Beach headquarters on January 10. Proposals will be due April 3, FPL said, adding that it expects to sign a definitive agreement with the winning respondent in July.