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FGT Back in Service After Lightning Disables Mainline

FGT Back in Service After Lightning Disables Mainline

Florida Gas Transmission recovered quickly getting most of its 1.5 Bcf/d mainline capacity back in service by last Tuesday, Aug. 18, after all the gas flowing to the Florida peninsula was cut off by a lightning strike, rupture and fire the previous Friday.

The lightning struck FGT's Station 15 near Perry in north-central Florida, and knocked out all downstream service. The 24-inch, 30-inch and 36-inch mainlines that converge in the station yard were affected.

The 30-inch line was placed back in service Sunday using a bypass, restoring 800,000 MMBtu/d of capacity for Monday's gas day. Proceeding more quickly than anticipated with a second bypass FGT placed the 36-inch mainline back in service on Tuesday, increasing the amount of downstream capacity to about 1,240,000 MMBtu/d. The 24-inch mainline was brought back on-line late Wednesday afternoon.

"It's had a major impact on our largest customers: large industrial organizations, hospitals, prisons, large manufacturing businesses, businesses that are driven by gas technology," said Teco Energy spokesman Mike Mahony. Teco subsidiary Peoples Gas is the largest retail gas distributor in the state of Florida, delivering 900 million therms per year of gas to 300,000 customers. "We had to contact 50 of our largest gas customers statewide and ask them to curtail their loads until we could resume normal service to them," said Mahony. "Most of them did have oil as their back-up and most had adequate reserves, but there were some that didn't have sufficient back-up fuel. We tried to work with them as much as possible to get gas to them or at least ease the transition from having a normal supply of gas to none. It's been almost not disruptive in any way to our residential customers who incrementally use very little gas."

Although it was warning South Florida residents Aug. 15 of the possibility of rolling blackouts due to the loss of gas supply, Florida Power &amp Light said Monday the blackouts were unnecessary. It did use load management techniques for a couple of hours Saturday with some commercial customers. FPL, the largest customer of FGT, was able to return two of its larger gas-fired units to service following Sunday's restoration of 30-inch line flows, said FPL spokesman Bill Swank. All of the utility's dual-fuel units had been converted to oil use but by Tuesday morning, near-normal flows enabled FPL to return to gas-fired power. The company also ended its statewide energy advisory and canceled requests for extraordinary customer conservation measures. FPL President Paul Evanson said conservation efforts helped the company through the outage with "minimal disruption of service."

A spokeswoman for Enron Corp., which co-owns Florida Gas along with Sonat Corp., said lightning apparently struck an above-ground compressor station in Perry. The explosion sent a raging fireball into the air. Four firefighters were injured and some homes destroyed.

"I can tell you, we have never had an incident of this magnitude involving lightning in the past," Enron's Elaine Thomas told local reporters.

Rocco Canonica

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