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TransCanada Exec Says Shale Growth Opens Doors for More Pipe

TransCanada Corp., which has its finger in some of the biggest gas projects in North America, including the Alaska Gasline Project and the proposed Mackenzie Gas Pipeline, is looking down the road toward even more opportunities, a company executive said last month.

Dean Ferguson, vice president of marketing, business development and regulatory affairs for the TransCanada's U.S. Pipeline Central unit, detailed some of the company's short- and long-range plans at GasMart 2008 in Chicago.

High on the list of pipeline prospects for TransCanada are the emerging shales -- a list that just keeps growing and growing and growing (see related story). Even fairly "new" maps of North America's shale gas resources detailing the Barnett, Woodford, Fayetteville, New Albany, Marcellus, Montney, Horn River and others are outdated from a year ago because of the continuing success by producers in other basins, said Ferguson.

"If you assume that any one or all of these shales become as large as what we've seen out of the Barnett [shale in Texas], what does that look like for capacity line flows?" Ferguson asked. "If there is significant growth in the shale plays, what does that mean for pipeline capacity?"

Gas production from the emerging shale basins is "a ways out; progress may be slow, but it's being made," he said. There aren't enough pipelines or storage in place to take care of the huge flows expected from the shales or for liquefied natural gas in the years to come, he said.

What's intriguing about the shale gas plays, said Ferguson, is that the gas flows continue to outpace initial projections. Initial decline rates from Barnett Shale wells were high, but new technology and fracturing techniques are steadily improving well performance. The same thing goes for the Rockies, said Ferguson, where gas production across the spectrum of sub-basins shows a rising curve through 2020.

Pipeline operators are taking notice, and a slew of new Rockies capacity options are on the drawing board, including the Pathfinder and Bison pipeline proposals, which were put forth by TransCanada and its subsidiaries (see NGI, May 19). Pathfinder would provide initial service from Meeker, CO, to the Northern Border Pipeline Co. system in North Dakota. Bison Pipeline Project LLC, a subsequent expansion,would extend service from Northern Border to both the Great Lakes Gas Transmission system and TransCanada's Canadian Mainline system at Emerson, MB. The initial capacity of the pipeline would be 1.2 Bcf/d.

The Calgary-based company also has its hand in southern pipeline projects in the United States to help carry gas from the Barnett and Fayetteville areas, along with the growing output from East Texas and along the Gulf Coast.

"We are committed to playing a role in meeting the growing needs for energy infrastructure," Ferguson said. "We're progressing options for Midwest and Northeast U.S. markets to access incremental supply from the largest continental basins...leveraging our existing, integrated footprint across North America..."

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