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Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy Inc. on Monday brought one of its 550 MW units (Unit 1) at Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant in Minnesota back to full power following a repair outage that began Dec. 10, requiring additional purchased natural gas-fired generation during the outage. The situation posed no danger to the public or plant workers, and Unit 2 continued to operate at full power during the repairs, Xcel said. Xcel has not yet calculated the total costs of replacement power; however, the impact on customer bills is expected to be relatively small.Prairie Island and Xcel's second nuclear plant, Monticello, are among the multi-state utility's lower-cost sources of generation, according to Xcel.

Freeport-McMoRan Inc.reported its exploration and production (E&P) unit completed a successful production test from an ultra-deep Highlandernatural gas discovery well onshore south Louisiana. Freeport-McMoRan Oil & Gas (FM O&G) said the production test indicated a flow rate of approximately 43.5 MMcf/d, with approximately 21.5 MMcf/d net to FM O&G, which along with its partners expects to begin production next year, using facilities in the immediate area. FM O&G said the Highlander discovery well had been drilled to a 29,400-foot depth in the first quarter this year. The E&P said it has identified multiple prospects in the Highlander area, in which it controls more than 60,000 gross acres. FM O&G is the Highlander well operator, holding a 72% working interest and an approximate 49% net revenue interest.

FirstEnergy Corp. is working on electric transmission projects that will benefit producers operating in northern West Virginia's portion of the Marcellus Shale. The company is spending about $100 million on these projects and is evaluating additional system upgrades, it said Monday. New facilities include high-voltage substations and transmission lines to accommodate expanding gas processing facilities and other operations. The new gas customer facilities account for projected load growth of about 400 MW through 2019, or the equivalent of about 200,000 new homes in area utility Mon Power's system, FirstEnergy said. Projects include the Waldo Run transmission substation and a short 138-kilovolt (kV) transmission line in Doddridge County near Sherwood, WV.  The $52 million project was energized in November, and the substation will accommodate load growth at a new natural gas processing facility. FirstEnergy is also working on a 138-kV transmission line that will support the gas industry and enhance service reliability for other customers. The 18-mile, $55 million Oak Mound-Waldo Run transmission project is expected to enter service by the end of next year. And FirstEnergy is evaluating new transmission facilities in Wetzel County to support a midstream gas processing plant that continues to expand.

XTO Energy Inc. has purchased Royal Dutch Shell plc affiliate SWEPI LP's Appalachian regional headquarters in Pittsburgh for $3.7 million. The building is located in an industrial park in the city and has more than 30,000 square feet. XTO, one of the basin's largest producers with about 580,000 acres under lease in Pennsylvania and Ohio, will consolidate its administrative operations early next year at the new location. The company lists regional offices in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania on its website. SWEPI still has offices located throughout the state. 

Sasol Ltd. has completed a $4 billion credit facility for an ethane cracker and derivatives project at its existing site in Lake Charles, LA. A syndicate of 18 international banks and other financial institutions are lenders for the credit facility. It consists of book-runners and joint lead arrangers The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd.BNP ParibasHSBC Bank USANational AssociationIntesa Sanpaolo S.p.A.JPMorgan Chase Bank N.A.Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc.Mizuho Bank Ltd.Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. and Citibank N.A. Joint lead arrangers are Absa Bank Ltd.KfW IPEX-Bank GmbHIndustrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd.ING Capital LLCKorea Development Bank and SG Americas Securities LLC. Managers are Export Development CanadaDeutsche Bank AG and UniCredit Bank Austria AG. In October, Sasol announced its final investment decision for the $8.9 billion petrochemical complex, which includes an ethane cracker that will produce 1.5 million tons of ethylene annually (see Daily GPIOct. 27). The remainder of the funds required for construction will be raised in a phased manner from a variety of potential sources, including surplus cash, Sasol said.

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