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TransCanada Cuts Capacity, Scraps 12 Compressors

TransCanada Cuts Capacity, Scraps 12 Compressors

TransCanada PipeLines plans to remove 12 older compressors from service in an effort to lower maintenance costs and reduce the amount of excess pipeline capacity on its system following the start-up of the 1.325 Bcf/d Alliance Pipeline on Dec. 1.

TransCanada's David Cornies, director of pipeline system design, said the impact on capacity will be relatively minimal at about 200 MMcf/d, which compares to TransCanada's total capacity of about 7.5 Bcf/d. However, service reliability will suffer, particularly along the prairies section of the massive Canadian system.

"We're really actually removing a fairly modest amount of capacity," he said. "What we are looking at is retiring 12 compressors that are old and obsolete and would have been retired in the next five years anyway. So instead of retiring them four or five years from now, we are retiring them now and we'll be filing with the NEB for that.

"We're still finalizing the details, but it should take on the order of 200 MMcf/d and that includes some other adjustments we have to make. About 25% of that is recoverable. In order to reconfigure the system for the lower flows, we have to change some of the compressor internal components. Those can always be changed back. Of the 200 MMcf/d that is going away you could say that 150 MMcf/d of that will be totally lost due to the retirements, so it's a pretty small amount."

However, Cornies said while the capacity loss may be small and probably won't even be noticed because long haul capacity under contract is likely to be even lower, reliability could suffer noticeably under certain conditions.

"The bigger impact actually has to do with the way the rest of the equipment will operate. With lower flows on the system, we won't be able to operate all of the equipment. There's going to be some segments that will be dormant for extended periods of time. While the equipment is still there, will it actually run if you have an instantaneous demand for it? It would be kind of questionable." He said portions of the system in Saskatchewan and Manitoba would be affected most.

TransCanada's capacity is about 7.5 Bcf/d so 200 MMcf/d is "peanuts," said Cornies, "particular considering the actual demand we are expecting is more on the order of 5.5 Bcf/d [after Alliance goes into service Dec. 1]. We'll have extra capacity. However, if we're flowing along at 5.5 Bcf and Alliance has a major problem and all of a sudden that gas wants to find its way down the old route, [there could be a short-term reliability problem]. It will take us a while to turn that back on. Pipelines, like ocean liners, don't respond instantaneously."

Alliance is expected to take about 1 Bcf/d of supply off of TransCanada. Alliance is test running about 600 MMcf/d currently and most of that is coming off of the TransCanada system because of the slow growth in wellhead deliverability in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin. "Certainly it will take longer than a year and probably longer than the next couple years" for TransCanada to regain the 1 Bcf/d of supply that Alliance is taking away, he said. "If you look at the base case for what we will be filing in the Alberta annual plan for the [Nova system], it will say it will take six years or so to refill all the pipe capacity."

Rocco Canonica

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