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Flood that Cut Power to Williams Headquarters Shuts Down Opal Trading

December 12, 2005
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Trading at the Opal Hub in western Wyoming was brought to a screeching halt during the week after Williams Field Services data systems were shut down due to a flood at Williams' Tulsa headquarters building. Williams said Friday that essential commercial operations continue despite the flooding and power outages earlier in the week.

Temperatures plunged during the cold snap last week leading to the broken water main about 2 p.m. on Monday. Water flooded a local utility's below-ground power vault and subsequently entered portions of Williams' basement where some of its key data systems, computer equipment and other electronics were housed. Williams said about three feet of water had to be drained from the building and dehydration units had to be brought in to dry out all the equipment before it could be tested and restarted.

Although the company said it was able to maintain essential commercial operations, there were disruptions to services and information systems during the week because of the outage. Williams spokesman Brad Church said Friday that he was unable to report which operations were impacted. "I don't know what's not running right now. There are a lot of systems that we are working to get back up." He said most of the company's major pipeline operations, including Transcontinental Gas Pipeline, which serves the Northeast, were unaffected because they are maintained at offices in Houston.

However, Williams' midstream gathering and processing operations, among other business, are operated out of Tulsa.

"It was our building's electrical brains, our data center area," said Church on Wednesday. "Some systems transitioned over to servers in Houston. Some of our website functionality has been lost. Essential business operations have continued. We implemented a recovery plan shortly after the event. Some operations were moved offsite away from the building, some in Tulsa and some have transitioned to field locations."

Williams Field Services, which operates the Opal processing plant in western Wyoming that serves gas to Kern River Gas Transmission, Northwest Pipeline and other systems, is based in the headquarters building and its operations were impacted. A western source said there was no physical interruption at the Opal plant, but trading was difficult because data could not be exchanged.

Trading at the Opal hub was shut down starting on Tuesday and only one transaction of 4,000 Dth/d was reported to NGI Wednesday and Thursday compared to 43 transactions totaling 340,000 Dth/d on Monday for Tuesday flow.

Trading remained scanty at Opal despite the restoration of electronic data interchange (EDI) on Wednesday. A backup EDI server in Houston was used to restore operations.

Nevertheless, some key data capabilities were still hindered on Friday. Gaskit, for example, an online customer service system for Williams' gathering and processing customers, was still not responding.

"There are a lot of systems that we are working to get back up and running again and a lot of applications are either not operational or not fully functional," said Church. "We have power; we have water, and we have heat so all the building operations are back. Everyone was back to work [Thursday]." Williams has 1,000 employees at its headquarters building in Tulsa.

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