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Natural Gas Distribution Project in Northwest Mexico Halted Following Pipeline Incident

A local authority has ordered Gas Natural Fenosa (GNF) to halt construction of a distribution network in northwest Mexico after a pipeline burst early Wednesday morning during a pneumatic test.

The Sonora State Public Safety Unit said the suspension would remain in place until the Spanish-based firm had technically demonstrated the quality of the construction materials and processes being used for the project underway in Sonora state.

GNF said the disturbance had occurred while the company was conducting a pressure integrity test on pipes recently installed along Calle 200 in Ciudad Obregon, a city of 400,000 that is the municipal seat of Cajeme.

No injuries were reported, and no gas was flowing at the time as the pipeline is not yet in service.

“During a test with compressed air there was an uprising of the asphalt surface,” GNF said. “Gas Natural Fenosa crews deployed to the area to carry out the necessary repair work in full coordination with authorities from Ciudad Obregon, public safety and the fire department.”

The company’s management said it “regrets any problems caused by the incident and reiterates its commitment to personal safety.”

The state Public Safety Unit said GNF had failed to notify it ahead of the test and indicated that it be fined, without specifying an amount. A company spokesperson told NGI’s Mexico GPI that she was unable to comment.

This is the second such explosion to occur during a pressure test on the Ciudad Obregon project, following an incident last November. The safety unit said it would also ask the federal Agency for Safety, Energy and the Environment to issue a report on the incidents.

GNF broke ground last August on the gas distribution network in Ciudad Obregon. The project is part of larger plan to build out the company’s systems in the northwest states of Sonora and Sinaloa, where it holds 30-year operating concessions for two different gas distribution zones.

GNF is one of Mexico’s largest distribution companies, controlling 21,940 kilometers (13,633 miles) of pipeline networks that spanned 13 states at the end of 2017. Service areas include the city of Monterrey, the country’s largest local distribution market and a business hub for the industrialized northeast region.

GNF’s parent company said earlier this month it would spend 247 million euros ($304 million) by 2021 on the buildout of its Mexican distribution networks. It added 888 kilometers during 2017.

In addition to the projects in the northwest, GNF is developing distribution networks in the Valle de Mexico region, adjacent to Mexico City.

Last year, GNF received approvals to distribute gas in the southern states of Yucatan, Campeche and Tabasco and is awaiting another permit to operate in the nearby state of Quintana Roo.

In 2017, the company distributed 197 Bcf of natural gas across Mexico, or an average of 540 MMcf/d. GNF also added 115,000 distribution clients, reaching 1.77 million customers throughout the country.

Country manager Narcis de Carreras recently said GNF is planning to connect an additional one million clients in Mexico over the next five years.

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