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Pipeline Ruptures in OK, TX, Cause Shut-Ins But Have No Price Impact

Kinder Morgan's Natural Gas Pipeline Co. of America (NGPL) reported a pipeline rupture on Friday on its system in Harrison County, TX, that caused minor injuries to three workers at Entergy's 484 MW Harrison County Power Project, which is about 150 miles east of Dallas near the Louisiana border. The rupture caused a fire in the power plant's cooling tower, forcing the plant to shutdown.

NGPL's rupture was the second on a major southern pipeline system in only a few days. El Paso's ANR Pipeline and OGE Energy Corp.'s Enogex Gas Gathering were still trying to determine on Friday which of their pipeline systems ruptured in southwestern Oklahoma on Tuesday. Several pipelines in the area were affected. There were no injuries. Neither rupture had any significant impact on cash market prices, sources said.

At the time of the NGPL blast about 2 a.m. Friday, only the three Entergy employees were at the plant. They received treatment for minor injuries but none were hospitalized, an Entergy spokeswoman said.

The rupture on NGPL's Gulf Coast No. 3 mainline just south of Compressor Station 304 caused the station to be taken offline. No transportation or storage services in the area were being restricted as of Friday, the company said, and the affected section of the system was isolated and stabilized. Initially NGPL said only the GulfTerra/Panola and Enbridge No. 2/Panola points were required to shut in. However, in a Friday afternoon update the pipeline added 10 more points to the shut-in list, scheduling all to zero for Saturday's gas day.

"At this time, pipeline segment capacity is not impacted and Natural does not anticipate curtailing primary firm or in-path secondary firm transportation service or any firm storage service," the update said.

The Harrison County power plant, located near the town of Marshall, TX, is a combined-cycle natural gas-fired power station with two 144 MW gas turbines and one 195 MW steam turbine. Entergy's unregulated Entergy Power Ventures LP subsidiary operates the station. The owners are Entergy (61%), Northeast Texas Electric Cooperative (30%) and East Texas Electric Cooperative (9%).

El Paso Corp. officials could not definitively say Friday that their ANR Pipeline was not the source of the blast late Tuesday night that caused the shutdown of Custer Compressor Station in southwest Oklahoma. They said it appeared that another line crossing the Custer area was the one that ruptured.

"Although the company is still finalizing its review of the incident, preliminary indications are that a pipeline belonging to a third party ruptured, and the resulting fire spread to ANR's Custer Compressor Station," a bulletin board posting said Friday. The small fire was still burning at the site through midday Wednesday but was extinguished that afternoon, an ANR spokesman said.

Enogex Gas Gathering said Friday the Custer County rupture "involved gathering facilities owned by" Enogex, but it could not confirm which line exploded. "Several companies, including Enogex, have pipeline operations near or at the site," Enogex said. "Following the rupture, Enogex personnel isolated its company's facilities at the site and shut off the flow of gas, but were unable to approach the damaged area until Thursday, May 12 due to safety concerns created by the fire."

An Enogex company bought its Custer-area pipeline facilities from ANR in 1998. In addition to the gas gathering lines, the purchase included a processing plant immediately adjacent to the site of the incident that was closed by Enogex in 2002.

The ANR station remained offline Friday, and the pipeline said it expected that a ban on scheduling Firm Secondary and IT services in the Custer area and along the Southwest Mainline would continue through the May 20 gas day. Service to primary firm customers was being maintained.

An estimated 190 MMcf/d was forced to shut in following the rupture, but ANR was keeping all gas deliveries whole, a spokesman said. ANR had successfully bypassed its damaged Custer Compressor Station Thursday, allowing all curtailed production to resume flows, he said, adding that ANR was getting help from affiliated El Paso Corp. pipelines CIG and Cheyenne Plains in replacing the supply that had been shut in temporarily.

ANR field crews found damage to the compressor station and a couple of valves that could have resulted from the blast of another line, the spokesman said. The pipeline experienced a minor pressure drop at the time of the rupture, but not as much as could be expected if its line was the one that ruptured, he said.

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