Columbia Gulf Transmission (CGT) was ramping back up on its flow volumes late last week after its Hartsville (TN) Compressor Station was knocked out of action last Tuesday night in a fiery explosion caused by one of a series of tornadoes in the South that killed at least 59 people.

Lines 100, 200 and 300 through the station were quickly shut down, and the outage prompted Columbia Gulf to reject all production-area receipts Wednesday until it was deemed safe to return Line 300 to service that evening. That allowed the restoration of about 1.2 Bcf/d of bypass flows, said spokesman Kelly Merritt. Columbia Gulf has a system capacity of 2.1 Bcf/d but was flowing less than 100% of that at the time of the blast, he said.

The trading representative for some independent Gulf Coast producers confirmed that Columbia Gulf was not accepting gas Wednesday from the receipt point his company uses in North Louisiana. He said there was a general "scramble" that day to redirect supplies that had been nominated into Columbia Gulf.

Customers were kept whole during the outage by the use of storage supplies.

There was "severe damage" to the station 45 miles northeast of Nashville, Merritt said Wednesday. The station had a bypass valve, but Columbia Gulf must make sure that it's safe to operate Lines 100, 200 and 300 through the station before opening the valve, he said.

The fire was subsequently contained, and since the station was unmanned there were no fatalities. However, homes in the immediate neighborhood were evacuated as a safety precaution. An Associated Press report quoted a Tennessee Emergency Management spokesman as saying that while the station was still ablaze, "these flames [were] shooting 400, 500 feet in the air."

Due to the Hartsville force majeure, effective Thursday Columbia Gulf's capacity through the Delhi Constraint Point in northeast Louisiana was decreased to 1,200,000 Dth/d. The pipeline also reduced delivery capacity to Texas Eastern-Adair to 100,000 Dth/d Thursday until further notice. The flow volume at Hartsville is dependent on how much gas can be moved through Delhi, Merritt said (Delhi volume was raised to 1,400,000 Dth/d Friday). System capacity may continue to be limited for some time due to what looks to be an extended loss of the compressor station, he said.

Merritt said Thursday he did not know if post-outage receipts were being allocated, but added that interruptible transportation service was available.

In addition to the restoration of flows at Hartsville, Columbia Gulf reported that downstream affiliate Columbia Gas Transmission (TCO) successfully tested a contingency plan that provides for supply from TCO to Columbia Gulf. Up to 500,000 Dth/d was moved into Columbia Gulf at the Leach, KY, interconnect, where it was redelivered to TCO's Line E at Means, KY. "If necessary, CGT could have also pumped the TCO supply at CGT's Stanton Compressor Station for redelivery at Line E at higher pressures," Columbia Gulf said. "With the commencement of flow on Line 300 and the anticipated schedule for placing Lines 200 and 100 in service, we do not expect to utilize the contingency plan based on the [five-]day TCO market forecast."

Columbia Gulf was able to place Line 200 back in service Thursday evening, raising the Hartsville throughput to about 1.3 Bcf/d. With the addition of Line 100, which was expected sometime during Friday's gas day, the volume would rise to about 1.5 Bcf/d. The final volume would include Line 100 operating at reduced Maximum Operating Pressure in accordance with a Department of Transportation (DOT) corrective action order issued Dec. 19, 2007.

"From a commercial standpoint, given the reduced throughput through the mainline, customers are reminded that CGT is not allowing payback of imbalances or the creation of additional long (positive) positions, even though there are many short (negative) positions on the onshore and mainline pools resulting from this incident and the subsequent nonconfirmation of supplies to CGT on upstream pipelines," the pipeline said in a Thursday afternoon update.

The DOT and the State of Tennessee dispatched inspectors to the blast site. They were trying to determine whether there were "any other safety factors that may have caused the pipeline to rupture" other than the tornado, said Damon Hill, a spokesman for the DOT's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. "There doesn't seem like there was any wrongdoing by the company," he noted.

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