Western markets for natural gas and the preferences of Rocky Mountain producers -- not pending liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects -- ultimately will determine if the proposed 650-mile Bronco natural gas pipeline from Wyoming to Oregon gets built by Houston-based Spectra Energy. The proposed $3 billion, 1 Bcf/d large-diameter interstate pipeline has yet to issue an open season for prospective customers, but that is in the offing shortly, according to Guy Buckley, vice president for corporate development, during an interview with NGI last week.

Ultimately a combination of the push to address global climate change in the energy sector and the need for more diversity of supplies to improve reliability in that sector will drive the need for greater interstate pipeline capacity for moving Rocky Mountain supplies west, Buckley said.

"The Rockies are a tremendous resource for natural gas in the United States," he said. "It has always been there, but prices haven't been high enough in the past to make it economically viable. Now prices have gone up, and there are no new feeds into Northern California and the Pacific Northwest."

Buckley said Spectra's plans are "indifferent" to what happens with LNG infrastructure along the West Coast. With enough of the right kinds of long-term contracts, the Bronco pipeline connecting supply basins in Wyoming, Colorado and Utah to the West Coast will get built, perhaps by 2011, he said.

"The thing that is good about our project is that there is a large supply resource base in the Rockies that is basically available for this pipeline, and it is a domestic supply that is not dependent on international commerce to bring it in," said Buckley, identifying marketers, producers, municipalities and utilities as all among the "dozens" of potential customers Spectra has been contacting.

State and federal officials who the pipeline proponent has contacted have all been favorable toward the idea of a pipeline from the Rockies west. "It is not a question of need, but when can we get it done," Buckley said. Ultimately that is the multi-million-dollar question. And Spectra is not alone in examining whether its project is the one to fulfill the need.

Kern River Gas Transmission has an ongoing open season, and other already in the interstate pipeline business are surfacing plans for new lines from the Rockies west.

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