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The American Gas Association (AGA) predicted that consumers will enjoy lower gas bills this winter compared with last year. "With natural gas storage at all time highs and prices well below past years, homeowners across the nation are in for some well-deserved relief from high energy costs when heating their homes this winter," said AGA CEO David Parker. The Potential Gas Committee, a volunteer group of scientists and energy experts, reported in June that there is enough natural gas in the United States to supply the country for at least a century. New and advanced exploration of shale basins and other gas sources has led to an unprecedented amount of natural gas available on the marketplace, AGA noted. Piedmont Natural Gas said its annual forecast of winter heating costs for customers in North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee shows that residential customers could see a reduction in winter heating costs of 10-20% compared to last year. For the typical residential customer, the reductions could result in savings of $15-25/month during the winter, the company said.

The Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission is still forecasting a 38% decline from 2008 in applications for permits to drill (APD) for natural gas and oil, staff said in its monthly report for September. The APD forecast for this year continues to mirror a prediction made by staff in August (see NGI, Sept. 7). As of Sept. 17 there were 3,718 APD approved state-wide, staff noted. About 5,000 APD now are expected to be approved this year, which would be down from the previous record high of 8,027 permits approved in 2008. In 2007 the commission approved 6,368 APD. Gas-rich Garfield County leads the state in drilling applications, capturing 37% of the permits with a total of 1,368 as of mid-September. At the same time in 2008 the commission had approved 2,888 permits in the county. Weld County had the second highest number of drilling applications, capturing 26% of the total with 968 as of mid-September, compared with 2,340 at the same time a year ago.

Delphi Midstream Partners LLC (DMP) struck a deal to buy one of Carrizo Oil & Gas Inc.'s Barnett Shale natural gas gathering systems and to invest in the producer's Marcellus Shale infrastructure. In the first of the two transactions, DMP agreed to acquire for an undisclosed amount Carrizo's Mansfield System in Tarrant County, TX. The system's current operating capacity of 70 MMcf/d may be expanded to 90 MMcf/d, DMP said. DMP also obtained the right to invest up to $100 million to develop midstream infrastructure in northeastern Pennsylvania to support Carrizo's Marcellus Shale development plan. Carrizo, based in Houston, has a 60,000-acre leasehold in the Barnett Shale, and it is developing a 103,000-acre leasehold in the Marcellus Shale. DMP was founded in late July with an equity commitment from privately held American Securities LLC.

Tricor Ten Section Hub LLC said a nonbinding open season for its planned storage project in southern Kern County 10 miles southwest of Bakersfield, CA, which closed Sept. 30, resulted in "significant over subscription for firm service," as well as additional bids for interruptible and hub services. The Ten Section Hub Project is awaiting approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. It would be located near the backbone systems of major western U.S. pipelines and would have more than 4 Bcf/d of interstate and intrastate pipeline capacity surrounding it. The facility is designed to hold 22.4 Bcf of working gas and will offer customers up to four-turns of high-speed deliverability. Ten Section Hub will is expected to offer up to 1 Bcf/d of withdrawal service and up to 0.8 Bcf/d of injection service.

Canada's National Energy Board (NEB) said it won't hear final arguments for the long-delayed Mackenzie Gas Project (MGP) proposal until at least April 2010, extending a decision on the C$16 billion natural gas pipeline. NEB warned that the April arguments would depend on the recommendations of the Joint Review Panel (JRP), which is scheduled to issue its environmental findings on the MGP in December. The JRP was tasked with examining the potential environmental, socio-economic and cultural effects of the 1,220-kilometer gasline, which would carry gas supplies from the Northwest Territories to points south. The NEB separately is looking at the MGP's engineering, safety and economic matters, but it can't move forward without JRP's recommendations and any possible remedial recommendations. If JRP's final report proposes measures to alleviate potentially adverse effects of the new development, some of these measures could be incorporated as conditions into any approvals granted for the MGP, the board said.

The Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) approved an Atlanta Gas Light Co. (AGLC) request to begin a multi-year system upgrade to improve service on peak demand days. The PSC voted 4-1 to approve AGLC's plans to implement its strategic infrastructure development and enhancement (Stride) program, which was designed to ensure that the AGL subsidiary's gas distribution system will be able to handle increased load growth and to improve reliability. AGLC plans to invest approximately $400 million over the next 10 years in improvements, including upgrading its distribution system and liquefied natural gas facilities to improve reliability and meet forecasted growth. The Stride program's initial three-year construction phase will cost an estimated $175.7 million, according to AGLC. The PSC adopted an amendment to levelize the increase that consumers will see in their bills over the next three years.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said the state has more cash from the federal dole for energy programs -- $185 million in two phases for weatherization programs -- which are part of the state's three-year $3.1 billion energy efficiency programs authorized for the major private-sector utilities. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) weatherization funding will go to nonprofit, local government and community action agencies throughout the state. After demonstrating successful implementation of a first phase of the weatherization programs with $68 million in federal funds, California will receive an additional federal award of more than $92 million, for a total of more than $185 million when including earlier federal weatherization funds, according to the governor. Thirty-six nonprofit organizations and local government jurisdictions are dividing the initial funds. Schwarzenegger said the latest funding will directly benefit an estimated 50,000 low-income households.

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