El Paso Natural Gas Co. said there was no evidence of corrosion, weld defects, prior gas leakage or slow-developing cracks in the "branch" or "tap" connection of a pipeline that ruptured and exploded Nov. 5 in Bushland, TX. "Instead, we learned the rupture was the result of an upward force on the branch connection that put pressure on a small area on the carrier pipe that contained a 'lamination.' The force on the lamination caused a fracture to develop in the lamination near the weld of the branch connection to the carrier pipe, resulting in the rupture," El Paso said. A lamination is a tiny area of separation within a pipe wall where the metal has not properly bonded to itself, and the lamination feature was not a defect under the regulations of the U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the company said. Stress Engineering Services Inc. conducted the metallurgical analysis; "We don't know yet what caused the upward force on the branch connection," El Paso said. Information about the investigation is at www.elpaso.com/bushlandinfo.

Dominion said it will spend $253 million on expansion of its natural gas gathering, processing and liquids facilities in West Virginia. The project is intended to increase efficiency and reduce high pressures in the system, enabling more gas from local producers to be moved through the system. The company said it will complete three compression units currently under construction and, over the next three years, add nine new units. Approximately 25 miles of replacement or new pipeline will be constructed at various places in its gathering system to address bottlenecks and increase delivery. Two gas processing plants will be added, increasing Dominion's West Virginia processing capacity from approximately 230 MMcf/d to 280 MMcf/d. The project is expected to be complete by fourth quarter 2012 and will be paid for by producers in their rates. The project includes nine planned units totaling approximately 7,000 hp to be installed over the next three years in Harrison, Doddridge, Lewis, Gilmer and Kanawha counties; a 10 MMcf/d processing plant in Pleasants County; a 40 MMcf/d processing plant in Lewis County; and a 60,000-gallon-per-day expansion of the Hastings Extraction Plant in Wetzel County.

Boardwalk Pipeline Partners LP said each of its 42-inch diameter pipeline projects -- the East Texas Pipeline, Southeast Expansion and Gulf Crossing Pipeline -- have received authorization from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to operate at their full design capacity of 0.80 of the specified minimum yield strength (SMYS) effective immediately. Previously each of these projects had been operating at 0.72 SMYS. Recently, Boardwalk announced the sale of an additional 156 MMcf/d of capacity on the Haynesville Project under a 15-year agreement. The additional capacity was contingent upon receiving approval to operate at 0.80 SMYS. The East Texas Pipeline originates near Carthage, TX, and proceeds to Harrisville, MS. The Southeast Expansion project originates near Harrisville, MS, and extends to an interconnect with Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. in Choctaw County, AL (Transco Station 85). The Gulf Crossing Pipeline originates near Sherman, TX, and proceeds to the Perryville, LA, area. Boardwalk had previously received authorization to operate the pipelines at standard operating pressures (see NGI, Aug. 3).

In an effort to improve its access to major refining and petrochemical markets in southern Louisiana, Enterprise Products Partners LP (EPP) has purchased three intrastate natural gas liquids (NGL) pipeline systems from Chevron Midstream Pipelines LLC for an undisclosed price. EPP said the move will expand and extend the partnership's South Louisiana network of midstream infrastructure. Originating from a central point in Henry, LA, the 212 miles of intrastate pipelines extend westward to Lake Charles, northward to Breaux Bridge in St. Martin Parish and eastward to Napoleonville, where Enterprise's Promix NGL fractionation and storage facilities are located. EPP's network of intrastate pipelines in Louisiana transports NGL products between key supply points, including the partnership's storage and terminal facilities at Breaux Bridge and its fractionation facilities at Norco, Promix and Baton Rouge, as well as various markets at Napoleonville, Geismar and other points along the Mississippi River.

Maryland could reap economic and environmental benefits from helping its citizens improve home heating efficiency, a University of Maryland study commissioned by the state's Department of the Environment has found. The university's Center for Integrative Environmental Research (CIER), projects that state assistance to residents for the purchase of energy-efficient natural gas furnaces and water heaters, and insulation insulation upgrades would result in: 80,000 new jobs over 10 years; $11 billion in economic activity over 10 years; a 9% reduction in carbon emissions over 10 years; and savings for individual homeowners of up to $400 in year one. The Maryland Department of the Environment commissioned the study in 2007, in part, to help it decide how to invest anticipated revenues produced by Maryland's participation the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

Intermountain Gas Co. has asked the Idaho Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to temporarily interrupt service to its customers using natural gas-fired snow-melting equipment during times when natural gas demand is peaking. The utility did not specify how many of its current 305,000 retail gas utility customers potentially could be affected. The PUC said it will accept stakeholder and general public comments on the gas utility's proposal through this Wednesday (Dec. 23). Gas-fired snow-melting equipment uses relatively large chunks of natural gas, and thus the utility thinks it can better manage peak-load situations if it has the authority to curtail supplies for snow-melting at certain times. The utility wants to shave and smooth its peak-load volumes as a means of keeping its operating costs down. Intermountain claims the snow-melt customers use large amounts of gas for only a few days or weeks during the winter, so it creates an inefficient use of the company's distribution system and does not allow for cost recovery for maintaining the larger all-year capacity when it is only used for a relatively few days annually. Under the utility proposal, all new snow-melt applications would require individual meters installed at the customer's expense.

The 920-foot, double-hulled liquefied natural gas (LNG) tanker Matthew ran aground last Tuesday but was soon refloated. The Norwegian-flagged tanker grounded onto rocks during its inbound transit approximately a half nautical mile southeast of Cayo Caribe near Guayanilla, Puerto Rico. There were no reports of pollution, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. The vessel was refloated when the crew transferred cargo from its forward tanks to its aft tanks. The Matthew is moored at the Eco Electrica facility for underwater hull integrity assessments.

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