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FERC Orders Northern Natural to Secure Kansas Wells, Allows Southern Star to Expand Gas Storage Field

FERC has given Northern Natural Gas Co. one month to secure access to several open or unplugged producing wells that could threaten a natural gas storage field in Kansas, and granted Southern Star Central Gas Pipeline Inc. permission to expand a separate gas storage field in Oklahoma.

In an order issued Thursday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said Northern Natural must file within 30 days a plan to avoid a loss of gas stored in the Cunningham storage field, which it operates [CP09-465]. Cunningham, which underlies about 40,320 surface acres in the Kansas counties of Kingman and Pratt, is authorized to store 62 Bcf in depleted oil and gas fields in the Simpson and Viola formations. In the field, the company operates 52 injection wells, 28 observation wells and a water disposal well.

"The plan shall include a near-term proposal to temporarily secure the wells within six months and a long-term plan to gain control of the wells and prevent access to the storage formations," FERC said.

The order comes in response to an incident in April 2017, when a piece of farming equipment struck a gas well owned by Nash Oil & Gas Inc., and the well began venting gas. The Kansas Corporation Commission hired a Houston-based well control company to stop the leak after representatives for Northern Natural and Nash each denied responsibility for regaining control of the well.

FERC authorized Northern Natural to expand a buffer zone around the Cunningham field by 12,320 acres in 2010, but as part of that authorization, the Commission ordered the company to maintain the integrity of the storage field. A federal district court judge granted access to Northern Natural to more than 9,000 acres and several producing oil and gas wells around the field in March 2012, allowing it to implement a 2011 plan to stop gas migration from the storage facility.

Meanwhile, in a separate order, FERC gave Southern Star authorization to expand the boundaries of its Webb natural gas storage field in Grant County, OK [CP17-219]. Webb currently has a surface area of about 3,520 acres, and a maximum certified storage capacity of 46 Bcf, which includes a certified working gas capacity of 12,500 MMcf. FERC said the certified maximum deliverability for the field is not expected to exceed 20 MMcf/d at minimum inventories.

Under the order, Southern Star may expand the Webb storage field horizontally in the North Nardin Area to include 320 acres of a proposed 480-acre area; horizontally in another part of Grant County to include 160 acres of a proposed 640-acre area; and vertically into another area that would include the Owego limestone and the Wilcox sandstone.

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