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Shell's North American Trading Arm Expands Mid-Atlantic Reach

Shell Energy North America (NA) LP will expand its natural gas marketing reach into the Mid-Atlantic in a deal to buy the assets of Enspire Energy LLC. Financial details were not disclosed.

Enspire, which was established in September 2005, already had a credit and supply arrangement with Shell, which enabled the marketer to optimize physical gas purchases for its customers.

The agreement should be finalized by the end of March, pending regulatory approval and the completion of some contractual requirements, Shell said.

Shell Energy NA President Mark Quartermain said the acquisition would expand the energy giant's scale and resources.

"We believe it will enable Shell Energy to offer a broader portfolio of value-added services to customers in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States," Quartermain said.

Shell's North American trading arm has long been one of the top marketers in the United States and Canada, according to NGI's quarterly surveys. In the 3Q2008 quarterly survey, Shell's North American physical gas sales totaled 13.8 Bcf/d (see NGI, Dec. 22, 2008).

"Enspire has been a tremendous success story in the region," CEO Jim Lukas told the Baltimore Business Journal (BBJ). Enspire's revenue reached $200 million for the 12-month period ending Nov. 1, he said.

With offices in Annapolis, MD, and Norfolk, VA, Enspire also delivers gas to customers in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, West Virginia and Washington, DC. In May 2006 Enspire was awarded a gas supply contract by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) to supply almost 1 Bcf of gas to the Architect of the Capitol in Washington, DC, and GSA's White Oak facility in Silver Spring, MD. The transactions were expected to generate an estimated $10 million for the company.

Lukas founded the company with Mary Hensley and Julie Hashagen. Lukas, who also serves as president of Enspire, formerly was vice president of gas supply for Pepco Energy Services. Hensley, director of marketing, had worked for Compass Energy as manager of business development prior to joining Enspire. Hashagen, manager of operations, had handled Compass Energy's gas scheduling and nominations before joining Enspire.

The company has eight employees, including Lukas, who told BBJ that he anticipated a "growth mode" as a result of the acquisition by Shell. Among the possible changes is expansion into the power trading arena, he said.

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