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Millennium Pipeline Promises November In-Service Date

More than a decade after it was first announced and eight years after it was initially proposed to open, Millennium Pipeline Co. LLC's 182-mile long, 30-inch diameter pipeline across New York's Southern Tier and the lower Hudson Valley will go into operation this November, the company said last Tuesday.

"There has been a lot of anxiety and commitment over the last 10 years to bring this project to fruition," Millennium President Dick Leehr told reporters at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. "We are for real, we are under construction and we will be bringing energy to the New York market this winter...everything is on target for a November in-service date."

The Millennium pipeline will transport up to 525,400 Dth/d when it goes in service, but will have "cheap expandability," Leehr said. Millennium will be able to match market growth with increments of expansion, adding compression to increase the size of the system to 1 Bcf/d, he said.

The pipeline will directly or indirectly serve markets in New York, New Jersey and New England. Western New York gas storage and production can be accessed directly through Millennium, and Canadian gas can be delivered through interconnections with Empire State Pipeline and National Fuel Gas Supply. The system will be bi-directional, allowing gas to be brought to and from storage and helping to balance the market during peak and off-peak periods, Leehr said.

While FERC certified the project at a cost of $654 million, the final cost won't be known until after the pipeline is completed and in service, Leehr said.

Plans for the Millennium pipeline were forced to clear a series of hurdles since the company first made the proposal in 1997. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a certificate for the project in September 2002, but New York stalled Millennium because it claimed that adverse effects along portions of the planned route were inconsistent with the state's coastal management program.

In December 2003 then-Commerce Secretary Donald Evans upheld New York state's objection to Millennium's proposal (see NGI, Dec. 22, 2003). The project floundered for several years until it was revised and scaled down. Changes include the removal from blueprints of a new pipe under the Hudson River in favor of a less controversial plan to use the existing Algonquin Gas Transmission LLC system the sidestepping of Mount Vernon, NY, which had opposed the projects; and the abandonment of plans to cross Lake Erie in favor of utilizing the Empire system near the Canadian border.

The finish line is now in sight because of those changes and also because Millennium made an effort to educate the public about their project, Leehr said.

"We've certainly made a dedicated effort in our outreach programs to educate the communities and the politicians about the project, how it's going to be constructed and what its impact for the region is. I think the project today has no opposition where some of the earlier proposals about the project had substantial opposition," he said.

The project received final approval from FERC in late December 2006 (see NGI, Dec. 25, 2006). Last year Millennium received two major environmental approvals from New York officials, paving way for construction of the pipeline to begin in June 2007 (see NGI, June 25, 2007).

Last fall Millennium held a nonbinding open season for shippers seeking firm capacity commencing this November (see NGI, Sept. 10, 2007). The project is anchored by customers KeySpan Energy, Consolidated Edison of New York, Central Hudson Gas and Electric Corp. and Columbia Gas Transmission Corp. Millennium will serve markets along its route in the Southern Tier and lower Hudson Valley as well as providing service to New York City markets through interconnections. Millennium is jointly owned by affiliates of NiSource Inc., National Grid and DTE Energy.

Last summer Algonquin broke ground on its Ramapo Expansion, a $200 million project also due to go into service in November to deliver 325,000 Dth/d to KeySpan and Con Edison via the Millennium Pipeline (see NGI, July 30, 2007).

In November Iroquois Gas Transmission System LP asked a federal court in Connecticut to issue an order blocking the Town of Brookfield, CT, and two agencies from delaying the construction of MarketAccess, Iroquois' portion of the reconfigured Millennium Pipeline project (see NGI, Nov. 26, 2007).

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