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Repairs Completed, Independence Set to Restart This Month

The nearly two-month wait for the Independence Hub natural gas deepwater production platform in the Gulf of Mexico to come back on-line may be nearing an end as Enterprise Products Partners LP announced Tuesday it has completed repairs on the associated Independence Trail pipeline.

Volumes from the hub are currently flowing at reduced rates while final testing is completed and the hub is expected to be able to accommodate full volumes "during the first half of June," the company said.

John Christiansen, a spokesman for Anadarko Petroleum Corp., which operates the hub, said the volumes from the hub are 20-25% of capacity (about 200-250MMcf/d). "We hope to be able to get up to some of the pre-shut in volumes over the next few days or week," he said.

When the hub went off-line on April 8 due to a leak on Independence Trail the original repair estimate was "one to four weeks" (see Daily GPI, April 10a).

Last month Anadarko sought to steady its investors by reaffirming its full-year production guidance for 2008 -- even as Enterprise announced that it was revising the restart date from "mid-May" to the "first half of June" (see Daily GPI, May 15). Enterprise, which owns 80% of the production platform and 100% of the pipeline, said the repair was taking longer than expected due to the unforeseen need to machine parts.

Enterprise said crews have now repaired the flex joint assembly of Independence Trail that was the source of the leak. Crews successfully replaced a stainless steel O-ring gasket and initial test results indicate that the flex joint is operating normally, the company said. Located in about 85 feet of water, the flex joint is designed to allow the pipeline to withstand movements of the Independence Hub platform.

With the current 1,701 Bcf storage level sitting 321 Bcf below last year's level and 8 Bcf below the five-year average, some futures traders -- who have been monitoring the situation closely -- have expressed concern that extended outages, such as the one at the Independence Hub, could make it more difficult to refill inventories ahead of this winter (see Daily GPI, April 28; April 24; April 14; April 10b; April 10c). The outage has suspended the production of approximately 900 MMcf/d.

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