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PNGTS Service Delayed Until January

PNGTS Service Delayed Until January

Portland Natural Gas Transmission System has become the second major import pipeline project being delayed well into the winter from expected Nov. 1 start up. The pipeline said the 152 MMcf/d of Canadian gas scheduled to flow to New England markets this fall probably will not enter the pipe until sometime in January at the earliest.

Northern Border said last month it expects service delays until at least the end of the year because of heavy rains along its construction route. PNGTS officials also blamed summer flooding for hindered construction plans.

"We had one major problem this year," said PNGTS spokesman Richard Anderson. "As of today we're about 18 inches higher in total rainfall than the average. That's like 30% more rain this year. The vast majority of that rain fell in a couple weeks in June when we were trying to get started and then we had 10-11 inches of rain a couple weeks ago in a two-and-a-half-day period which caused us to spend a lot of time preparing erosion control structures. We had originally estimated the cost of this project would be $300 million. I think now it's probably going to be around $350 million."

Rain, however, was only the initial problem. After the summer downpour, PNGTS apparently tried to speed up construction and was hit with a barrage of letters from FERC officials citing poor construction techniques and lax clean-up activities.

"To the best of my knowledge there are no issues remaining with regulators," said Anderson. "Everything is going great now. We have been under [regulatory] pressure to close up the front end and back end of our operations. I think both New Hampshire and Maine state officials and FERC wanted to get the clean-up speeded up, and we have put a lot of folks on that. The regulators are satisfied but they're keeping a wicked close eye on us."

Anderson said pipe construction still needs to be completed on a "short pipeline stretch" north of Westbrook, ME, and along the last few miles before the Canadian-U.S. border in New Hampshire. "There's a lot of clean-up, some tie-ins. Most of our directional drills are completed. Most of our sensitive stream crossings have been completed and a few more will be done by the end of this week," he said last Wednesday.

The 292-mile pipeline system will extend to a connection with Tennessee Gas Pipeline in northern Massachusetts from a connection with an extension of the Trans Quebec &amp Maritimes Pipeline near East Hereford, PQ. The last 100-mile stretch between Portland, ME, and Dracut, MA, will be jointly owned with Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline. The pipeline project is sponsored by an international consortium of energy companies including subsidiaries of: Bay State Gas, El Paso Energy, Gaz Metropolitain, MCN Energy Group, NIPSCO Industries, and TransCanada PipeLines. Rocco Canonica

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