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Millennium Pipeline Enters Full Service

The much-anticipated Millennium Pipeline, which had been planned for a decade and experienced a series of delays through mid-December, was placed into complete service Dec. 22 and deliveries to its anchor shippers have begun, Millennium Pipeline Co. LLC said.

"This is an historic day for New York state and the Northeast," said Millennium President Dick Leehr. "Many years of hard work and planning, permitting and eventual construction have finally come to fruition, enabling Millennium to deliver much-needed natural gas supples as we enter the peak of the 2008-09 winter heating season."

The 525,400 Dth/d pipeline had been scheduled to go into service a week earlier but was delayed by last minute details (see NGI, Dec. 22, 2008).

Millennium is the centerpiece of a $1 billion investment in energy infrastructure that includes facilities by Empire State Pipeline, Algonquin Gas Transmission and Iroquois Gas Transmission. The pipeline is anchored by National Grid, Consolidated Edison of New York, Central Hudson Gas and Electric Corp. and Columbia Gas Transmission (CGT). Millennium is owned by affiliates of NiSource Inc., National Grid and DTE Energy.

The bidirectional pipeline directly or indirectly serves markets in New York, New Jersey and New England. Western New York gas storage and production can be accessed directly through Millennium, and Canadian gas can be delivered through interconnections with Empire State Pipeline and National Fuel Gas Supply.

Also on Dec. 22, Inergy LP said it has placed into service its newly constructed North Lateral, a 10-mile, 20-inch diameter pipeline connecting the 26.35 Bcf Stagecoach storage facility to Millennium. Stagecoach can provide up to 500 MMcf/d of supply into Millennium from storage volumes or volumes wheeled from Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co.'s (TGP) 300 Line through Stagecoach, Inergy said.

"The commencement of commercial operations between Stagecoach and Millennium marks an important step in Inergy's development of an integrated Northeast gas infrastructure hub," said Inergy CEO John Sherman. "The connection of the Stagecoach North Lateral pipeline significantly enhances the strategic value of Stagecoach in the Northeast natural gas storage and transmission infrastructure."

Stagecoach has firm contracts for 200 MMcf/d of deliveries through the North Lateral tied to existing contracted storage capacity. Stagecoach also offers an interruptible wheeling service to shippers seeking to move volumes from TGP to Millennium or from Millennium to TGP and has received requests for 75 MMcf/d of wheeling service to begin immediately.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) recently approved Inergy subsidiary Arlington Storage's request to convert an abandoned gas production field in Bath, NY, into a storage field to be named Thomas Corners Storage Field. The field would have working capacity of approximately 7 Bcf, along with maximum withdrawal and injection capabilities of 140 MMcf/d and 70 MMcf/d, respectively, according to the FERC order. Arlington plans to place the expansion facilities in service in fall 2009. In May the company reported that it had sold all available capacity in Thomas Corners (see NGI, May 12, 2008). Thomas Corners is expected to interconnect with TGP's Line 400 and CGT's A-5 line, which accesses Millennium Pipeline.

Early last month National Fuel Gas Supply subsidiary Empire Pipeline placed in service Empire Connector, one of five projects that make up the Northeast Project, or the reconfigured Millennium Pipeline. Construction of the Empire Connector was completed earlier in December and FERC gave Empire the green light to begin service on the 77-mile, 24-inch diameter connector that extends from near the terminus of Empire's exiting 157-mile pipeline outside Rochester, NY, and runs south to Corning, NY, where it ties in with Millennium (see NGI, Dec. 8, 2008).

The Empire Connector project transports 250,000 Dth/d and provide customers with access to supplies at the Dawn Hub in Ontario through Empire State Pipeline's connection with the TransCanada PipeLines system at the Chippewa Channel of the Niagara River. FERC gave the go-ahead for Empire Connector as part of an order in December 2006 approving the mega-Northeast Project (see NGI, Dec. 25, 2006). The Empire State line originates at the United States-Canada border near Buffalo, NY.

The mega-project is an alternative to the 442-mile, 700 MMcf/d Millennium Pipeline project that FERC approved in September 2002 (see NGI, Sept. 23, 2002). That project never got off the ground because it was blocked from crossing the Hudson River by New York state, which ruled Millennium to be inconsistent with the state's authority under the Coastal Zone Management Act. The project was declared dead in the water when former Commerce Department Secretary Donald Evans upheld New York's position in a December 2003 ruling (see NGI, Dec. 22, 2003).

In late November Millennium said its 182-mile, 30-inch diameter gas pipeline across New York's Southern Tier and lower Hudson Valley would be fully operational by Dec. 15 (see NGI, Dec. 1, 2008). At that time Millennium said gas was flowing in portions of pipeline in Rockland, Orange and Sullivan counties on behalf of CGT under an arrangement necessitated by the "lift and lay" construction method used on the eastern segments of the pipeline. In November FERC authorized CGT to begin service on portions of Millennium Pipeline (see NGI, Nov. 24, 2008).

In December FERC approved a contingency plan filed by Millennium that would allow the pipeline to begin operation even if the pipeline's East Branch horizontal directional drill (HDD) was not completed in time to meet Millennium's in-service date. Millennium had said it incurred "significant delays" in attempting to complete the HDD at the East Branch of the Delaware River in Hancock, NY.

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