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Tennessee Force Majeure Still in Effect Following Offshore Blast

A Tennessee Gas Pipeline force majeure remained in effect Friday several days after an explosion occurred aboard a commercial diving vessel that was decommissioning a small line off the coast of Louisiana.owned by ANR Pipeline. The blast, which occurred last Tuesday, sent six crew members of the vessel to local hospitals. A U.S. Coast Guard search for a missing seventh crew member was suspended Thursday.

The explosion, which resulted in a fire, occurred while a 6.5-mile segment of the ANR line that extends from a BP platform to South Marsh Island, LA, was being taken out of service by crew on the Julian Morrison vessel, which is owned by Chet Morrison Offshore in Houma, LA, said Michael Barnes, a spokesman for TransCanada, which owns ANR. No natural gas was flowing at the time so the explosion had no impact on ANR's customers, he noted. The fire was extinguished by the crew of the Julian Morrison, according to the Coast Guard.

The blast is believed to have originated in a tote tank at the stern of the vessel, said Coast Guard Petty Officer James Harless in New Orleans.

Within hours of the explosion, El Paso Corp.'s Tennessee declared a force majeure for certain parts of the South Marsh Island 249 area. The force majeure is expected to remain in effect at least until March 31, said El Paso spokesman Robert Newberry. The pipe was reportedly moving approximately 20,000 Dth at the time of the incident.

"The reason for the [force majeure] event is due to an unexpected incident caused by third-party pipeline replacement, which requires further investigation in the area," Tennessee told its shippers in a notice. "Tennessee requires that operators and producers keep physical flow at zero until further notice for [certain] meters. Additionally, Tennessee requires operators and producers to keep scheduled volumes at zero for [these]...meters beginning Timely Cycle, 9 a.m., on the Gas Day of March 13, 2008 and until further notice."

The Interior Department's Minerals Management Service is leading the investigation into the cause of the mishap, said the Coast Guard's Harless.

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