Sponsors Seek Clean Slate at FERC for Voyageur Project
In a change of strategy last week, TransCanada PipeLines Ltd.
and Nicor Inc. notified FERC they were withdrawing their
application for their original Viking Voyageur pipeline project to
clear the path for a new application on a scaled-down version they
intend to file early this fall.
The two sponsors initially had considered amending the original
Viking Voyageur application still on file at the Commission, but in
the end "we decided that it just probably would not make a lot of
sense to do that because [the new planned project] will be
substantially different looking," said Ed Werneke, vice president
of supply ventures for Nicor. This is a "housekeeping matter on our
part to kind of clear the FERC agenda on the Viking Voyageur
The project sponsors "have come to the conclusion that because
of the significant change in the scope of the project we are better
served by filing a new application. However, the work that we did
on the Viking Voyageur project, especially the work through
Wisconsin and Illinois, is still applicable in large part to the
new shortened version. That is still available to FERC to work
with," he noted.
The new project, which will be called Voyageur, will be about
one-fifth the length of the proposed Viking Voyageur pipeline, will
flow northward from the Chicago hub, but still will serve the same
markets targeted in the original proposal - northern Illinois and
southern Wisconsin. Specifically, the Voyageur project will
represent just the southern leg of the formerly proposed Viking
Voyageur pipeline. The sponsors' plans call for construction of a
140-150 mile, 1.05 Bcf/d line that would begin at the
Joliet/Chicago Hub area, where it would interconnect with Northern
Border Pipeline and Alliance Pipeline, and would flow gas northward
through northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin, terminating just
southwest of Milwaukee, WI.
In contrast, the original Viking Voyageur project was proposed
as a 773-mile, 1.4 Bcf/d pipeline that would have interconnected
with TransCanada at the Manitoba-Minnesota border and brought gas
down through Minnesota, Wisconsin and into the market hub in
TransCanada and Nicor said they expect to submit a application
for the new Viking project, which will be based on the old Viking
Voyageur concept, in either September or October. The project, if
approved and built, would cut into the transportation markets in
northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin currently served by ANR
Werneke doubts that filing a new application on the Voyageur
project will it put at a disadvantage with the competition - such
as the Illinois Wisconsin Express Project. "We think we still have
the head start. A substantial amount of environmental work,
engineering work and right-of-way work that was done on Viking
Voyageur is in place at FERC on file there. Even though we're
withdrawing the application, it doesn't mean that that information
is any less valuable," he said.
Werneke further dismissed the notion that the sponsors withdrew
the application partly in response to ANR Pipeline's request last
Monday for FERC to dismiss the Viking Voyageur filing. "There is no
connection. We had already come to the conclusion that we were
going to withdraw our application. We were I guess surprised at
what ANR did. They seem to take every opportunity they can
to...cause us problems coming into their market area."
Voyageur "is planning to build an entirely different project
from the one it has on file," complained ANR, whose share of the
transportation market in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin
would be threatened by a born-again Voyageur project.
As for shipper committments, "we are continuing to work on that.
We feel we have substantial support, but until we're through this
open season we're probably not going to talk a lot about
commitments," Werneke said. The open season ends Sept. 11th.