Most of the talk out of the Rocky Mountains recently has been about running natural gas pipelines west-to-east, but last week the talk turned around -- for a few moments anyway. Kern River Gas Transmission launched an open season on Tuesday to carry more Rockies supplies to California markets, and Spectra Energy signaled it soon will launch an open season to gauge interest in carrying gas supplies to the California-Oregon border.

The 1,680-mile Kern River pipeline now extends from southwestern Wyoming to Southern California, delivering more than 1.7 Bcf/d of natural gas to growing markets in Utah, Nevada and California. Its open season, which will extend to Jan. 11, will gauge shipper interest in expanded firm transportation to its current markets.

The MidAmerican Energy pipeline subsidiary proposes to loop 100 miles of its system north of Salt Lake City, and near Las Vegas, which were not looped during the 2003 expansion, and add more compression, a spokeswoman said. The looping would increase Kern River's capacity to between 200,000 Dth/d and 500,000 Dth/d. The project now planned would ramp up in November 2010.

"We believe the timing is right to once again expand the Kern River system," said President Michael Dunn. "Based on the increasing level of Rockies gas production, and the increasing demand in the market area along our pipeline system, this proposed expansion will be in service at the right time to serve customer needs."

Just two days after Kern River launched an open season, Spectra unveiled plans to build the Bronco Pipeline to serve western markets. Spectra's proposed $3 billion pipe, with an initial capacity of more than 1 Bcf/d, would travel more than 650 miles to a terminus on the California-Oregon border near Malin, OR.

"The proposed Bronco Pipeline positions Spectra Energy as a new competitor bringing critical supply outlets to the growing Rockies' production regions and attaching to strong western markets with increasing natural gas needs," said Spectra Chief Development Officer Alan Harris. "With the continued demand for clean-burning natural gas to fuel growth in the Pacific Northwest and California markets, the Bronco Pipeline represents an important new outlet for Rockies production to reach these key markets and builds on our long-standing service to this region through our Western Canadian facilities."

With required approvals, Spectra said the pipe could begin service as early as 2011, with completion in 2012. Bronco would access existing and growing supply basins in Wyoming, Utah and Colorado and stretch westward, interconnecting with several pipelines en route to its western terminus.

Shippers interested in Kern River's firm year-round transportation service would be required to execute a binding precedent agreement during the open season reflecting their commitment to accept either a 10- or 15-year firm transportation service agreement, Kern River said. Existing firm shippers interested in permanently relinquishing capacity on a year-round basis will have to execute a separate precedent agreement; relinquished capacity could be used in lieu of constructing new facilities.

Kern River said agreements for expanded capacity must be completed and returned by Jan. 11, but the deadline for the return of relinquished capacity agreements is Dec. 17. Parties should contract Laurie Brown at (801) 937-6410, Kevin Billings at (801) 937-6167 or Greg Snow at (801) 937-6270 to obtain a copy of the precedent agreement.

Spectra plans to launch an open season in the next three months to determine final project parameters including route, market and timing. For information, contact Spectra's Guy Buckley at (713) 627-5772.

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