FERC last Tuesday issued a favorable final environmental review of Bison Pipeline LLC's proposal to build a major interstate natural gas pipeline from production fields in the Powder River Basin to Midwest markets.

"Approval of the proposed project would have some adverse environmental impact; however, we believe that environmental impacts would be reduced to less-than-significant levels if the proposed project is constructed and operated in accordance with applicable laws and regulations, Bison's proposed mitigation and additional measures recommended in the EIS," the staff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) said in the final environmental impact statement (FEIS) on the Bison Pipeline project [CP09-161]. The favorable FEIS all but guarantees Bison a certificate soon.

The proposed Bison Pipeline would have the initial capacity to transport 477 MMcf/d, expandable to 1 Bcf/d, from the prolific Powder River Basin in Wyoming to markets in the Midwest, primarily Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois. The 302-mile, 30-inch diameter line would extend northeastward from the Dead Horse region near Gillette, WY, across the southeastern corner of Montana and into southwestern North Dakota where it would interconnect with the pipeline system of Northern Border Pipeline Co. near its Compressor Station No. 6 in Morton County, ND. The project also includes the installation of one new compressor station totaling 4,700 hp near Hettinger County, ND. The cost of the project is estimated at $609.6 million.

Bison Pipeline has called on FERC to issue a certificate by February 2010 so it can place the facilities in service by Nov. 15, 2010. Bison is a limited liability company, and its sole member is TC Continental Pipeline Holdings Inc., a subsidiary of TransCanada Corp. TransCanada Northern Border Inc., also a TransCanada subsidiary, would be the operator of Bison.

The proposed Bison pipeline has 10-year capacity commitments with Anadarko Energy Services Co., 250 MMcf/d; Williams Gas Marketing Inc., 100 MMcf/d; Minnesota Energy Resources Corp., 51.706 MMcf/d; and MidAmerican Energy Co., 5 MMcf/d. Anadarko Energy is the project's foundation shipper (see NGI, May 19, 2008).

Even as producers continue to lay down rigs across the country due to low natural gas prices, Bison maintains that the project is designed to serve the expanding production in the Powder River Basin. "Twenty thousand wells have been drilled in this area in the last 10 years and annual additions are projected to be in the range of 2,000 wells per year," Bison said in its FERC application (see NGI, May 4, 2009). "Current natural gas production from the Powder River Basin is about 1.5 Bcf/d and supply growth is expected to continue, with production forecasts by 2020 ranging from about 2 Bcf/d to as high as 4 Bcf/d. The coalbed methane potential of the Powder River Basin has been estimated at 18.5 Tcf."

The project, with its direct connection to Northern Border, would provide a new northbound route out of the entire Rocky Mountain production region to the growing Midwest market, according to Bison.

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