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New Pipeline Sets Sights On The Northwest

New Pipeline Sets Sights On The Northwest

Westcoast Energy, Cascade Natural Gas Corp. and Puget Sound Energy (PSE) announced last week that they have teamed together to explore the feasibility of building a new pipeline to serve consumers in northwestern Washington. Westcoast is leading the project evaluation and development for the three companies and would be the lead developer as the project moves forward.

The pipeline, called the Orca Natural Gas Pipeline (ONGP), is still in the preliminary design stages and will be developed in broad consultation with local communities and government officials, Westcoast said. It is currently targeted to be in service by late 2004. The pipeline is anticipated to be 140 miles long, including potential laterals to Whidbey Island, and the Olympic, Quimper and Kitsap Peninsulas, areas not currently served by natural gas. The capacity of the new line will be determined by projected market demand for natural gas in the region.

Lizette Parsons, a Westcoast spokeswoman, said that it is even too early for capacity estimates. "We've announced the project in such a preliminary stage where we honestly don't know how much gas will flow through it. We made the announcement now to create a forum of open consultation, which we welcome."

Westcoast said the new project is in response to the growing demand for gas in Northwest WA, where the population has grown 7.5% in the past five years. The proposed ONGP would transport natural gas from Sumas, WA, at the Canada-U.S. border, to new and existing markets in Northwest Washington. It would also add a new link to the North American interconnected natural gas pipeline grid.

"The development of the this project is consistent with Westcoast's objective of increasing our activities in the Pacific Northwest, where we already have a significant market and asset presence," said Michael Phelps, CEO of Westcoast.

"The Orca Natural Gas Pipeline project can add versatility and diversity to PSE's natural gas supply portfolio, while reducing costs to our customers. It can also allow PSE to better serve its electric customers by delivering fuel to natural gas-fired generation projects more cost-effectively," said Bill Gaines, vice president, energy supply of Puget Sound Energy.

The companies plan to evaluate two general corridors for the natural gas pipeline. One alignment would roughly follow the Interstate 5 corridor south to Everett and include an extension across Puget Sound to Port Townsend. The other would be a mostly offshore underwater route south from Whatcom County to Port Townsend. Both scenarios could also provide service to Whidbey Island.

The three companies currently operate a combined 51,000 miles of pipelines. Westcoast operates a 51-mile offshore pipeline crossing the Georgia Strait from just north of Vancouver, BC to Vancouver Island, and another in the Gulf of Mexico.

Westcoast has been very active in terms of participating in pipeline projects. Besides this new Orca project, the Vacouver-based company also has a substantial stake in the proposed Vector and Alliance pipelines.

John Norris

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