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The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has ordered ExxonMobil Corp. subsidiary XTO Energy Inc. to cease all excavation operations near its Cratty Unit in Butler County, PA. The agency said the company failed to obtain proper authorization before it began work to clear an intersection in the area for truck access to the well pad. DEP said XTO recently informed the agency of the work, but it added that it was too late. The order requires XTO to cease all earth disturbance activities and obtain, within five days, the necessary permits and authorizations to continue its excavation operations. 

The Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) Information Technology Modernization Program is further streamlining the process for drilling permits. Expedited permit processing was reduced from a peak of 30 days experienced with a surge in industry activity last spring to a one-day processing rate in November. RRC said it has made upgrades to hardware, software and refinements to internal processes for analyzing drilling permit applications. Software improvements also allow for quicker identification and processing of vertical drilling permits, the agency said. The enhancements also provide drilling permit managers with reports that pinpoint how long processing times are for various vertical, horizontal and directional drilling permit applications. In November, more than 50% of drilling permits were processed within one to three days, compared to about 9% of the permits processed within one to three days last spring. Further enhancements are forthcoming to the drilling permit application systems, including allowing operators to look up online special field rules for horizontal wells and to view a proposed well location immediately in the commission's Public GIS Viewer by collecting coordinates on the wells in the drilling permit application.

The Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) lowered part of Southwest Gas Corp.'s rates dealing with energy efficiency, resulting in a $11.5 million refund to the Las Vegas, NV-based natural gas utility's Arizona customers. The average return to Southwest's residential customers will total about $6.64 annually. The ACC approved lowering the per-therm rate of the gas utility's energy efficiency enabling provision. The de-coupling mechanism that buffers the utility's revenues from various energy-saving programs has worked as planned, allowing utilities to keep their revenues and retail prices for customers stable, according to ACC Chairman Bob Stump.

FERC, which traditionally convenes its business meetings on the third Thursday of each month, will hold its January meeting on the fourth Thursday (Jan. 22) of that month "to accommodate a compressed preparation schedule due to the holiday season," the agency said. Other Federal Energy Regulatory Commission open meeting dates in 2015 are scheduled for Feb. 19, March 19, April 16, May 21, June 18, July 16, Sept. 17, Oct. 15, Nov. 19 and Dec. 17. All of the meetings are scheduled to be held at FERC headquarters at 888 First St. NE in Washington, DC, and to begin at 10 a.m., except the February meeting, which is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. The Commission does not hold open meetings in August.

InterGen's 40,000 hp Altamira Compression Station in Altamira, Tamaulipas, Mexico, is operational and supports transporting up to 1.3 Bcf/d of natural gas in Mexico's pipeline system. The station is ultimately connected a Petroleos Mexicanos' 48-inch diameter pipeline, one of the country's main pipelines. The station mainly serves the Federal Electricity Commission, the Mexican state-owned electric utility. InterGen is one of the largest independent power producers in Mexico with more than 2,200 MW of capacity across five plants throughout the country. A new 220 MW combined cycle plant, San Luis de la Paz, and a 141 MW wind farm with partner IEnova, Energia Sierra Juarez, are expected to enter operation next year. InterGen also owns and operates three compression stations and one gas pipeline in Mexico.

Cheniere Energy Inc. has engaged 18 financial institutions to act as joint arrangers to assist in the structuring of up to $11.5 billion of debt facilities with proceeds to be used to pay for the Corpus Christi Liquefaction Project in Texas and for general business purposes.  As previously disclosed, estimated capital costs for the proposed liquefaction project of $11.5 billion to $12.0 billion, before financing and pipeline facilities, are expected to be funded from a combination of debt and equity. The arrangers are Bank of America, BNP Paribas Securities, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, ING Capital, Intesa Sanpaolo, JPMorgan Chase, Lloyds Bank, Mizuho Bank, Morgan Stanley, Royal Bank of Canada, The Bank of Nova Scotia, Société Générale, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp., Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Standard Chartered Bank, and The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd. "We have now received the equity and debt commitments needed to support the financing of the Corpus Christi Liquefaction Project," said Cheniere CEO Charif Souki.  "We are continuing to make progress on our Corpus Christi liquefaction project and expect to commence construction in early 2015 [see Daily GPIOct. 8]."

EnLink Midstream affiliate Ohio River Valley Pipeline LLC (ORV) is holding a binding open season through Jan. 15 for the ORV Condensate Pipeline to transport condensate in Ohio from points in Harrison, Belmont, Guernsey, Noble, Monroe and Washington counties, to Bells Run Station in Washington County and Black Run Station in Muskingum County. The pipeline also is considering an extension to one or more connecting facilities in Holmes, Coshocton and Harrison counties. The pipeline would enhance "our position for substantial growth in the Utica and Marcellus shale plays," said EnLink CEO Barry E. Davis. "It is a major step forward for EnLink and one that positions us in the heart of the gas and condensate production fairway in this region." Details are available from Scott Walker at (214) 721-9468 or scott.walker@enlink.com.

Rice Energy Inc. has launched the initial public offering (IPO) of master limited partnership (Rice Midstream Partners LP, selling 25 million common units at $16.50/each on Wednesday, versus the $19-21 price expected (see Shale DailyDec. 8). Underwriters have a 30-day option to purchase up to an additional 3.75 million units of the stock, which is trading under the symbol "RMP" on the New York Stock Exchange. Proceeds would help fund 2015 expansion. Assets consist of 3.2 MMDth/d of dry gas gathering and compression capacity in southwest Pennsylvania.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) office in Moab, UT, is seeking public input on a proposal from Gray Canyon Energy to build a 10-inch diameter, 15-mile buried natural gas pipeline from a processing facility to an oil upgrade facility in Green River, UT. Gray Canyon also is proposing to construct 1.25 miles of railway track siding for oil loading purposes in Grand and Emery counties. A general description and a map are available on BLM's Environmental Notification Bulletin Board under project name "Gray Canyon." Comments should be mailed to the Moab Field Office, Attn: Gray Canyon Energy ROW, 82 East Dogwood, Moab, UT 84532, or emailed to blm_ut_mb_comments@blm.gov.

Enterprise Natural Gas Pipeline LLC, a unit of Enterprise GTM Holdings LP, is seeking prefiling status at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the proposed NMT Pipeline to provide access to a gas processing plant to be constructed in Eddy County, NM. The first segment of pipeline would provide 350 Bcf/d of firm capacity through a 14-mile, 24-inch diameter pipeline to an interconnection with Transwestern Pipeline Co. in Lea County, NM. A second segment would provide 400 Bcf/d of firm capacity through an 84-mile, 24-inch diameter pipeline to interconnections with several existing pipelines at the Waha Hub in Pecos County, TX. The Waha segment would also include a 15,000 hp compressor station. The estimated in-service date for the project is in 2Q2016.

Rapid City, SD-based Black Hills Corp.'s natural gas utility in Kansas has received approval for its rate case settlement, the first since 2006, from the Kansas Corporation Commission, allowing the Black Hills Energy utility unit to increase overall revenues by $5.2 million, effective Jan. 1. Black Hills serves 111,000 gas utility customers in the state. The new rates would provide a return on $51 million. The settlement did not stipulate return on equity or the capital structure for the utility, which would be set by the commission.

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