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Less than a year after its discovery, the Geauxpher Field in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico (GOM) is producing 115 MMcf/d of natural gas from two wells, according to operator Mariner Energy Inc. The project, located in Garden Banks Block 462 more than 150 miles offshore Louisiana, was discovered in mid 2008. The development's wells are connected via a 40-mile subsea tieback to a third party-operated platform on Garden Banks Block 72. After processing the gas is transported via pipeline to onshore facilities. Production from the wells to pressurize the flowline to the platform began in April, and sales began May 15. Geauxpher is 60% owned by Mariner; Apache Corp. owns the remaining stake. In another joint venture with Apache, Mariner is drilling an exploration well on the Arden prospect on Garden Banks Block 949. Mariner operates the Arden prospect, which is expected to reach its targeted depth over the next two to three months. The companies each hold 50% working interests in the prospect.

Quest Resource Corp. and Quest Energy Partners LP have recovered $2.4 million in cash, some stock in a separate corporation and interest in two natural gas assets as settlement following an internal investigation of former CEO Jerry Cash. Last year the entities launched a joint investigation into some "questionable transfers" totaling $10 million from Quest affiliates to an entity controlled by Cash (see NGI, Sept. 1, 2008). As part of the investigation, Quest Resource and the partnership filed lawsuits against Cash, the controlled entity and the other owners of the controlled entity to recover the funds that were transferred. Under the terms of the settlement agreements with Cash, Quest Resource received $2.4 million in cash, as well as 60% of the controlled entity's interest in a gas well located in Louisiana and a landfill gas development project located in Texas. The partnership received the stock of an unnamed corporation that owns oil producing properties in Oklahoma. Cash was named chairman of Quest Resource in 2002 when the company acquired his former company, STP Cherokee Inc. He was named CEO of Quest Resource and the partnership in September 2004.

An independent consumer unit at the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is challenging the results claimed by private sector utility energy efficiency programs and urging consumers to attend one of two public hearings scheduled for Monday (June 1) in Los Angeles and Tuesday in San Diego. Regulators have designated the meetings as "public participation hearings" for the major utilities' $4 billion 2009-2011 efficiency programs. The four major investor-owned utilities -- Pacific Gas and Electric Co., Southern California Edison Co., San Diego Gas and Electric Co. and Southern California Gas Co. -- have asked to double the total energy efficiency program budget, and the CPUC Division of Ratepayer Advocates (DRA) has completed an analysis concluding that the added dollars would reap only an additional 6% in energy savings for consumers. Two separate deficient utility filings during the past 12 months have caused program starts to be delayed, DRA said. As a result, a recent CPUC decision requires the utilities to submit for the third time their energy efficiency program plans in conformance with CPUC rules.

DCP Midstream LLC announced the startup of new facilities servicing the Anadarko-Woodford Shale resource play development in Oklahoma's Blaine and Canadian counties. The installation of a new high-pressure booster with associated gathering and discharge pipelines is the first phase of DCP Midstream's development in central Oklahoma. Initially, 15 MMcf/d of capacity will be added. New gas volumes will be delivered to DCP Midstream's Okarche plant for processing and extraction of natural gas liquids. Producers are positioning themselves in the Anadarko-Woodford Shale and initial production rates are quite promising, the company said.

Calgary-based Macquarie Group has plans to acquire Tristone Capital Global Inc. for C$116 million, a move that it says would enhance the capabilities of the energy services firms. With offices in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Argentina, Tristone focuses on the global energy sector, providing technical and financial services to exploration and production companies, oilfield service and midstream companies, government entities, royalty trusts, limited partnerships and institutional investors worldwide. Tristone employs around 170 people, and most of them are expected to join the combined company. By combining the research platforms, Macquarie, which now employs 12,700 people, will cover about 250 energy-related companies in every major oil and gas basin in the world, according to John Prendiville, global head of resources for Macquarie Capital. Closing is expected during the third quarter.

Connecticut's Department of Public Utility Control (DPUC) has been asked by the state attorney general to reject a 9.2% rate increase proposed by Southern Connecticut Gas Co. (SCG). The Energy East subsidiary delivers natural gas to 165,000 customers in 22 Connecticut communities. SCG in May revised an earlier rate hike application because of a "significant decline in total gas costs," and it now is requesting a rate hike of $34.2 million, or a 9.2% increase to its current base rates. In a filing to DPUC, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said SCG's proposed rate increase should be rejected "in its entirety." The attorney general said SCG, "like its customers, should learn to tighten its belt and do more with less." He said rates also should be cut at Connecticut Natural Gas, which has a rate hike request on the DPUC docket [No. 08-12-06].

Kern River Gas Transmission Co. is holding a nonbinding open season through June 18 for firm year-round transportation service from receipt points in Wyoming and Utah to delivery points into California. Any new expansion service resulting from the open season would be available by Jan. 1, 2013. The open season is being held simultaneously with Pacific Gas and Electric Co.'s California Gas Transmission open season to expand its Baja Path. The PG&E open season proposes to interconnect with the Kern River/Mojave pipelines at a new interconnect to be named Arvin, located adjacent to the bifurcation point on the Kern River/Mojave pipeline connection near Arvin, CA. Kern River expects the most economically viable project to be delivery of 200,000 Dth/d to the Arvin interconnect and up to an additional 100,000 Dth/d to existing or new delivery points upstream of the Arvin point. The pipeline may consider a larger expansion if supported by market interest, it said. Expressions of interest are due by 4 p.m. MDT June 18 and can be faxed to (801) 937-6444. For information contact Greg Snow at (801) 937-6270 or Todd Kremer at (801) 937-6273.

Cardinal Gas Storage Partners subsidiary Perryville Gas Storage LLC has applied to FERC for a certificate of public convenience and necessity to construct, own and operate a new salt dome natural gas storage facility and related facilities in the Crowville Salt Dome in Franklin and Richland parishes, LA. The facility will provide a total of approximately 15 Bcf of working capacity in two caverns. Plans call for interconnections with CenterPoint Energy Gas Transmission and Columbia Gulf Transmission near Delhi, LA. The company also requested FERC approval to provide firm and interruptible storage services and interruptible hub services from the facility. Assuming FERC authorization by Dec. 1, Perryville said construction could begin in early 2010.

Houston-based Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. is closing both its Charleston, WV, and Denver regional offices by the end of the summer, but the CEO said there are no plans to sell any of its Rocky Mountain, Midcontinent or Marcellus Shale reserves. Cabot plans to open a new North regional office in Pittsburgh to handle the company's Marcellus Shale assets, which are located in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The North office also will oversee development in the Rockies region. In addition, Cabot is forming a new South region to oversee the Gulf Coast and Midcontinent assets. Phil Stalnaker, who had been managing the western assets, has been named the regional manager of the North office. Matt Reid, Cabot's Gulf Coast regional manager, will move into the South region manager post. Thomas Liberatore, who was vice president of Cabot's East region, resigned following the consolidation.

Spokane, WA-based Avista Corp. said Fitch Ratings pushed up the company's credit rating earlier in May to the lower rung of its investment grade (from "BB+" to "BBB-"). Avista's credit now is rated as investment grade by the three major rating agencies. Following what Standard & Poor's Ratings Services and Moody's Investors Service had done in February last year and December 2007, respectively, Fitch cited Avista's "more balanced" regulatory environment, improved financial profile and continued focus on its core utility business as major factors for the upgrade, Avista said. The higher ratings mean Avista holds a stronger ability to secure debt at lower rates, the utility holding company said. "A reduction in interest costs over time, together with increased financial flexibility, may result in lower operating expenses," a spokesperson for the company said. Avista Utilities is the company's utility with 355,000 electric and 315,000 natural gas customers spread around three western states -- Washington, Oregon and Idaho. "To have an investment-grade rating with the three major ratings services is a significant milestone for the company," said CEO Scott Morris, noting it is the fulfillment of a goal that the company has been working on since the end of the western wholesale energy market meltdown seven years ago, which sent its credit rating plummeting.

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