FERC last Tuesday issued a certificate to North Baja Pipeline LLC to expand and modify the U.S. leg of its U.S.-Mexico pipeline system to import 2.9 Bcf/d of natural gas from planned liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities on the Baja California coast to California and Arizona markets.

The certificate allows North Baja to modify its existing system to accommodate bidirectional gas flow, construct interconnecting facilities, build approximately 46 miles of lateral facilities to serve electric generation facilities, and to loop its entire approximately 80-mile system with a combination of 42-inch and 48-inch diameter pipeline [CP06-61].

The project includes the construction of a 45.7-mile, 16-inch diameter lateral to Imperial Irrigation District's existing El Centro Generating Station in El Centro, CA, as well as interconnections with Southern California Gas and the El Paso Natural Gas pipeline system at Ehrenberg, AZ, among other facilities. North Baja also received an amended presidential permit to modify its existing border facilities to receive LNG imports.

The expansion of North Baja's existing system would extend from an interconnection with the El Paso facilities near Ehrenberg through southeast California to a point on the international border between Yuma, AZ, and Mexicali, North Baja California, Mexico, where the pipeline interconnects with Sempra Energy's Gasoducto Bajanorte Pipeline. The North Baja system is the U.S. portion of the international North Baja/Gasoducto Bajanorte system.

The North Baja/Gasoducto Bajanorte pipeline was built in 2002 to supply U.S. gas to gas-fired electric generation facilities in Baja California, Mexico. However since that time, a number of LNG storage and vaporization facilities have been proposed for the Baja California coast, near the terminus of the Gasoducto Bajanorte pipeline. One of the LNG facilities is Sempra Energy's Energies Costa Azul LNG terminal, which is currently under construction and is expected to go into service on Jan. 1, 2008, with a baseload deliverability of 1 Bcf/d and peak deliverability of 1.3 Bcf/d.

The existing North Baja system is authorized to transport 512,500 Dth/d of gas in a southbound direction. Once the expansion is completed, the system would be capable of delivering up to 2.93 Bcf/d of gas from Mexico in a northbound direction to California and Arizona markets, the FERC order said [CP06-61]. In addition to the new volumes, North Baja would continue to offer southbound transportation for several existing customers.

The North Baja expansion is expected to be constructed in three phases, with the parts of the project targeted for completion by 2009 and others in 2010. The FERC order requires the project to be in service within four years. The estimated cost of the expansion is $290.9 million.

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