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Energy Transfer Partners LP (ETP) completed its Southern Shale and Cleburne-to-Tolar pipelines, providing 1.1 Bcf/d of capacity from the Barnett Shale of North Texas and boosting its capacity out of the shale to 4.6 Bcf/d. The 36-inch diameter Southern Shale pipeline originates in southern Tarrant County, TX, running 31 miles to ETP's Maypearl compressor station near Maypearl, TX, where gas is delivered to ETP's pipeline infrastructure. The 36-inch diameter Cleburne-to-Tolar pipeline originates in the western region of the Barnett Shale and connects to ETP's Cleburne compressor station, which interconnects to ETP's 42-inch diameter Cleburne-to-Carthage and 36-inch diameter North Texas pipelines. In the last year ETP has added more than 400 miles of 36-inch and 42-inch diameter pipeline and 4 Bcf/d of takeaway capacity, the company said. In September ETP completed two gas projects that added 875 MMcf/d of capacity to its transmission systems -- the 42-inch diameter Carthage Loop pipeline in Texas and the 36-inch diameter San Juan Loop pipeline in New Mexico (see NGI, Sept. 15, 2008). In August ETP completed the 135-mile, 36-inch diameter Paris Loop pipeline and the 25-mile, 36-inch diameter Maypearl-to-Malone pipeline (see NGI, Aug. 11, 2008).

Houston-based Gastar Exploration Ltd. reported completing its best producing well to date, the Belin #1, in two lower zones of the Deep Bossier play in East Texas, at an initial production (IP) rate of 41.2 MMcf/d. The well, in which Gastar has a 52% stake, is on a 20/64th-inch choke with about 10,300 pounds/square inch of flowing casing pressure. The well was completed in November to a total depth of 18,800 feet, and it logged about 150 feet net of pay in the middle and lower Bossier formations. CEO J. Russell Porter said, "To put this well into perspective, our biggest producer prior to the Belin #1 was the Wildman #3, which IP'd at 23 MMcf/d. Comparing it against the entire play, we believe the Belin #1 is among the top 10 best wells reported by any producer in any area of the Bossier." Gastar's five most recent Bossier completions had average IP rates of 15 MMcf/d and average gross estimated ultimate recoverable reserves of 8.3 Bcf. Chesapeake Energy Corp. is a one-third working interest partner in Gastar's East Texas acreage, and Chesapeake also holds around 16% of Gastar's outstanding common shares.

Marathon Oil Corp.'s decision to expand into key resource plays in North America appears to be paying off, with the company ramping up a 15-25 natural gas well program in a new prospect in the Woodford Shale, which eventually could yield 200-300 drilling locations. The Cana No. 1-15H discovery well, located in the Brickyard prospect in Canadian County, OK, flowed at an initial production rate of 5.2 MMcf/d, Marathon said. The well was drilled to a total depth of 17,267 feet, including a true vertical depth of 13,177 feet and horizontally for 4,090 feet. Marathon operates the well and holds a 57% stake; Questar Corp. and Cimarex Energy Corp. are joint stakeholders. The Cana well was Marathon's first using a patented technology that it jointly developed with BJ Services, GEODynamics and Expro Group. The EXcape Completion Process, an interventionless well completion technology, allowed Marathon to remotely perforate, fracture stimulate and complete each individual interval zone for production, which included setting and removing the isolation devices. Based on the success of the Cana well completion, Marathon plans to use the technology in other Woodford Shale wells, as well as its Cook Inlet operations in Alaska.

Congress last week approved a resolution that clears the way for Sen. Ken Salazar (D-CO) to become secretary of the Interior Department in the Obama administration. The resolution gets Salazar past the so-called "emoluments clause" of the U.S. Constitution, which bars senators or representatives from being appointed to an executive post if the pay for that job was increased during a lawmaker's term in office. As a fix, the resolution would reduce the interior secretary's annual salary to $181,100, which was the compensation level when Salazar began his Senate term in January 2005, CQ Today reported. The current salary is $191,300. The Senate passed the resolution by unanimous consent last Tuesday, and the House approved it by voice vote the following day. It has been forwarded to the White House for President Bush's signature. The framers of the Constitution adopted the "emoluments clause" to avoid corruption and self-dealing in the legislative process, and to reinforce the separation of power between the legislative and executive branches of government.President-elect Obama in mid-December tapped Salazar for the tough assignment of cleaning up the troubled Interior agency whose image was scarred by scandal last year (see NGI, Dec. 22, 2008).

The expansion of the Dominion Cove Point liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal facilities on the eastern shore of Maryland went into service on New Year's Day, said Dominion spokesman Dan Donovan. The expansion raises the sendout capacity of the Cove Point terminal to 1.8 Bcf/d from 1 Bcf/d, and doubles storage capacity to 14.6 Bcf. Dominion Cove Point, a subsidiary of Dominion Resources, and Norway's Statoil ASA signed 20-year service agreements in 2006 for the terminal expansion and increased pipeline capacity in Maryland and Pennsylvania (see NGI, Oct. 9, 2006). All of the Pennsylvania pipeline facilities associated with the terminal expansion are in service, according to Donovan. The 88 miles of 24-inch diameter pipeline extend northward from the new Perulack Compressor Station in Juniata County, PA, to the Leidy Meter Station and pipeline replacement facilities at the Leidy Hub complex in Clinton County, PA [CP05-131]. But the Maryland part of the project -- 41 miles of 36-inch diameter mostly pipeline loop -- has not begun operation yet.

Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline LLC asked FERC for authorization to start up its Phase IV expansion by Thursday (Jan. 15). The project, which doubles the capacity of its existing pipeline, will support service from the Canaport liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal that is scheduled to be fully operational in the first quarter. The $320 million Maritimes expansion would provide the Canaport LNG terminal with access to U.S. northeastern gas markets by bolstering mainline capacity by approximately 418,000 Dth/d to nearly 800 MMcf/d, said Maritimes, which is owned by Duke Energy, Emera Inc. and ExxonMobil Corp. Canaport is jointly sponsored by Irving Oil and Repsol YPF in Saint John, NB (see NGI, May 22, 2006). Emera, which has a 12.92% stake in Maritimes, is nearing completion of a 90-mile, 30-inch diameter pipeline lateral from the LNG terminal through southwestern New Brunswick to a connection with the U.S. portion of Maritimes at the international border near Baileyville, ME. The $350 million Brunswick pipeline, which is due to be completed this month, will be capable of carrying 850 MMcf/d of regasified LNG and its capacity can be expanded with added compression. The lateral was approved by the National Energy Board in June 2007, and it began construction in November of that year (see NGI, June 4, 2007). Emera has negotiated a 25-year send-or-pay toll agreement with Repsol to transport gas through the Brunswick pipeline.

Destin Pipeline Co. LLC is holding a binding open season through Feb. 9 for up to 380 MMcf/d of firm capacity from Clarke County, MS, and other onshore receipt points to interconnects with Florida Gas Transmission, Gulf South and Gulfstream pipelines. Destin is modifying facilities to enhance its capability to transport gas between onshore points and anticipates being ready to start transporting additional volumes in April. Onshore receipt points are in central Mississippi with delivery points to Florida via interconnects with Florida Gas Transmission, Gulf South and Gulfstream pipelines in southern Mississippi. Destin currently transports gas onshore from deepwater Gulf of Mexico fields and supplies various markets in the Northeast, Southeast and Florida. Planned modifications to Destin's Sand Hill compressor station in central Mississippi will enable the system to flow gas in either northerly or southerly directions, and this will enable gas to be transported from central Mississippi points to delivery points interconnected with lines serving Florida. Information is available at www.destinpipeline.com.

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has approved a 4.7% rate decrease for Spokane, WA-based Avista Utilities' 72,000 retail natural gas customers in northern and north-central Idaho. Declining wholesale gas prices prompted the state regulators to cut retail gas rates, even though the utility's annual purchased gas adjustment (PGA) had been put in effect on Oct. 1. "Because wholesale prices are lower than anticipated, customers are paying more than market rates," a PUC spokesperson said. PacifiCorp's Rocky Mountain Power request to increase retail power rates an average of 4% was delayed. The PUC instead planned to gather comments on the proposed rate hike before taking action.

Comstock Resources Inc. said it would have a $450 million development and exploration budget this year to prove up its Haynesville Shale leasehold in Louisiana and to continue to develop its Cotton Valley leasehold in East Texas. About $399 million is set aside for the East Texas/North Louisiana properties alone. Included are plans to drill a total of about 76 wells (56 net), with 66 development wells (49.1 net) in the two-state region, which includes 43 (32 net) Haynesville Shale and five (4.5 net) Cotton Valley horizontal wells. Comstock also plans to spend $51 million in South Texas to drill 10 (6.8 net) wells this year. "Given lower natural gas prices, we plan to defer much of our Cotton Valley development drilling, which has been the largest contributor to our production growth in 2008," said CEO M Jay Allison.

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