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Comanche Trail Asks FERC to Expedite Border Crossing Approval for NatGas Pipe

Comanche Trail Pipeline LLC has asked FERC to expedite an order authorizing construction of an international crossing at the Texas-Mexico border for a natural gas pipeline, after concerns that the project is already behind schedule.

In a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission [CP15-503] on Monday, a Comanche Trail executive said the company was contractually obligated by Mexico's state-owned electric utility, the Comision Federal de Electricidad (CFE), to have the 1.1 Bcf/d pipeline in service by January 2017. The company had originally planned to begin construction of the crucial San Elizario Crossing Project in 1Q2016.

"While we are already well beyond that date, [we] believe that if the commission issues the Section 3 authorization and the presidential permit promptly, [we] may still have the ability to complete construction of the facilities by the timing dictated by our anchor customer," said Comanche Trail’s regulatory affairs manager Kelly Allen. Allen said a third party, an undisclosed Mexican company that is tasked with building a compressor station and associated infrastructure on the Mexico side of the border cannot begin work until the San Elizario project is completed.

"As I am sure you can appreciate, apprehension by the developers of the infrastructure in Mexico is quite high," Allen said.

The project calls for constructing 1,800 feet of 42-inch diameter pipeline under the Rio Grande River near San Elizario, TX, in El Paso County, and the Mexican city of San Isidro in the state of Chihuahua (see Daily GPIJan. 4). It would serve as the termination point for the 195-mile, intrastate Comanche Trail pipeline, which would run from the Waha Hub to delivery locations with local towns and utilities in South Texas. Gas supplied by the pipeline would be used by the CFE for power generation in Mexico.

Allen said the upstream interstate pipeline has already been approved by the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC), and more than 96% of the required rights-of-way for the pipeline have already been acquired. The pipeline received a favorable environmental assessment (EA) from FERC in January.

Last August, FERC determined that the San Elizario Crossing Project would affect a total of 4.2 acres of land in the United States (see Daily GPIAug. 4, 2015). That total includes temporary workspace for horizontal directional drilling under the river and hydrostatic testing of the pipeline. After construction is complete, Comanche Trail plans to retain 1.3 acres as a 50-foot wide easement.

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