Port Dolphin Energy LLC said a record of decision has been signed in its application for a license to build a deepwater liquefied natural gas (LNG) port off the West Coast of Florida. The milestone paves the way for the award of a license from the U.S. Maritime Administration. The deepwater port, to be located 28 miles off Tampa Bay, would allow specially designed LNG vessels to deliver regasified LNG through an undersea pipeline connected with the state's pipeline system four miles inland. The LNG will be regasified onboard the vessels before entering the pipeline. Port Dolphin is a subsidiary of Hoegh LNG (see NGI, April 9, 2007). An environmental impact statement has been completed for the project, which was approved recently by Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (see NGI, Sept. 21). Port Dolphin's deepwater port would have peak sendout capacity of up to 1.2 Bcf/d, enough to power more than one million homes. When fully operational, Port Dolphin will supply enough natural gas to meet 15% of Florida's needs. Construction is set to begin in 2012 with completion in 2013.

Vector Pipeline is holding a binding open season for a third expansion of its system. The 2011 Expansion proposes to add long-haul capacity of up to 115 MMcf/d by adding two new compressors and upgrades the U.S. portion of the system. The expansion could also include incremental short-haul capacity (from Washington, MI, to Dawn, ON) by adding a loop to the U.S. and/or Canadian portion of the system. In-service could be in November 2011 for the long-haul capacity, given shipper interest and timely regulatory approvals, Vector Pipeline LP and Vector Pipeline Limited Partnership said Wednesday. Binding bids for firm capacity will be accepted from Monday until 4 p.m. EST Nov. 30. Vector will make a final determination of incremental capacity following the conclusion of the binding open season. Information and materials are available at www.vector-pipeline.com. Additional shipper information is available by contacting John Donaldson at (734) 462-0238 or Matt Malinowski at (734) 462-0236. Vector Pipeline LP and Vector Pipeline Limited Partnership are joint ventures of Calgary-based Enbridge Inc. and Detroit-based DTE Energy Co.

Labor, oil and natural gas officials have called on the chairmen of the House and Senate tax-writing committees to support tax policies that promote job development in the oil and gas industry, and bolster the nation's energy and economic security. In letters to Sens. Max Baucus (D-MT) and Charles Grassley (R-IA), chairman and the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, respectively, and Reps. Charles Rangel (D-NY) and Dave Camp (R-MI), chairman and ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, respectively, the joint Oil and Natural Gas Industry Labor-Management Committee said "avoiding tax increases on the industry is not only good tax policy -- it is good energy policy." Recognizing that they had "common interests," the leadership of the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the Building and Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO (BCTD), which represents 13 and national and international unions, formed the committee in June, said BCTD spokesman Tom Owens. Other members are the International Union of Operating Engineers and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, as well as oil and gas company CEOs.

The Oregon Public Utility Commission (PUC) approved a substantial decrease in retail natural gas utility rates, effective Nov. 1, following earlier filings by Portland-based NW Natural for a 16% rate drop, its lowest rates in five years, and similar large decreases for the state's two other major private-sector gas utilities -- Spokane, WA-based Avista Utilities and Seattle-based Cascade Natural Gas Co. The PUC lowered the rates even below some of the initial filing estimates by the utilities, noting that a continuing drop in demand for natural gas had driven down wholesale prices even further. NW Natural will see an average residential monthly decrease of nearly $15, or 18.1%, which in the winter will be $21.16, or 13.4%; and average commercial monthly decrease of 21.1%; Avista will see average residential monthly decrease of nearly $16, or 20.7%; winter drop of $32.12, or 21.5%; and average commercial customer decrease of 23.5%; and Cascade will see an average residential monthly decrease of $9.80, or 13.2%; winter drop of $21.16, or 13.4%; and an average commercial customer decrease of 15.3%."

Low natural gas prices adversely affected a number of Rapid City, SD-based Black Hills Corp.'s business units, resulting in a net loss for the company. The company posted a $3.9 million loss (minus 10 cents/share) for the period, compared with profits of $19.5 million (51 cents) for the same period in 2008. Offsetting the poor financial results, Black Hills CEO David Emery said "substantial progress" was made during the quarter on the company's initiatives, resulting in a higher credit rating, a successful $180 million utility bond sale and commencement of construction on the Wygen III coal-fired power plant expansion near Gillette, WY. Low gas prices also impacted Black Hills' energy marketing unit by lowering per-unit margins and Rocky Mountain basis differentials. There was also what Emery called a "large negative impact" on the company's gas transportation operations. As a result of the lower natural gas prices, power prices have been much lower this year than last, negatively impacting off-system sales for the company's electric utility.

Questar Overthurst Pipeline has filed an application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to build a 43.3-mile loop along its system. The proposed loop pipeline would generally run parallel to the existing Overthrust Pipeline from the Rock Springs Compressor Station in Sweetwater County, WY, to a tie-in facility called Cabin 31, located within Uinta County, WY. The project would provide up to approximately 800,000 Dth/d of natural gas from receipt points on the east end of the Overthrust system to delivery points on the west end of its system. Overthrust said it has negotiated three firm transportation service agreements with Wyoming Interstate Co. Ltd. for up to 548,457 Dth/d of incremental capacity created by the project. The estimated cost of the proposed loop expansion is $94.3 million.

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