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Millennium Pipeline Co. LLC is holding a binding open season through Feb. 12 for firm transportation capacity commencing Nov. 1, 2013 to support system mainline expansions linking the Marcellus Shale in New York to the state's Manhattan borough. Information is available at www.millenniumpipeline.com and on Millennium's electronic bulletin board. Prospective shippers may contact Stan Brownell at (845) 620-1300 or e-mail at Brownell@millenniumpipeline.com. In November Texas Eastern Transmission LP (Tetco) and Iroquois Gas Transmission System LP each announced open seasons for projects that would target growing production in the Marcellus Shale (see NGI, Nov. 23, 2009). Tetco announced that Range Resources would be the anchor shipper on an expansion of its system to deliver Marcellus gas to the Northeast and Iroquois Gas Transmission System LP announced a nonbinding open season through Friday (Jan. 29) for its NYMarc project, which would connect expanding Marcellus Shale gas supplies to New York, New England and eastern Canadian gas markets.

The Natural Gas Exchange Inc. (NGX) has opened three new natural gas clearing points in the United States. The clearing points, which are part of an expansion project that began in 2008, bring the number of U.S. locations to 23. "The latest expansion of our physical natural gas clearing services further improves our market offering to our existing client base," said Peter Krenkel, president of the Calgary-based exchange, which also offers trading and clearing services for crude oil and electricity. "We continue to expand the clearing services to additional points to more fully serve our natural gas trading customers." The new locations include El Paso Pipeline's San Juan Blanco Pool; Texas Eastern Pipeline's West Louisiana Pool; and Transcontinental Pipeline's Station 85 Pool in Southern Alabama. All three points are additions to existing pipelines, expanding NGX's footprint in the United States. NGX, a wholly owned subsidiary of the TMX Group, which also owns the Toronto Stock Exchange, also said Thursday it set a new record for energy volume transacted in 2009. The total of 14.7 million terajoules surpasses the previous record, which was set in 2008. TMX CEO Tom Kloet said, "Both this achievement, as well as our continuing U.S. expansion -- as evidenced by the additional hubs announced today and our integration of NetThruPut and its crude oil products into NGX -- highlight our continued progress in the North American energy market."

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) proposed a rule to ensure that certain acquisitions of public utilities by holding companies that do not influence the control of the utility do not trigger certain market-based rate requirements or cross-subsidization restrictions. FERC is seeking comment on a notice of proposed rulemaking (NOPR) granting blanket authorization for a holding company to acquire 10% or more, but less than 20%, of a public utility, provided that the holding company files an affirmation in support of exemption from affiliation requirements, a new FERC form. The affirmation would ensure that a holding company purchaser would not change or influence the control of the public utility. The proposed rule would exempt that public utility from certain market-based rate requirements and cross-subsidization restrictions. The new process would allow FERC to monitor and sanction entities that violate any statements made in the affirmation. The proposal came out of a workshop that took place in December 2008 to explore issues involving control and affiliation as they pertain to the Commission's market-based rate requirements.

Integrys Energy Group Inc. has wrapped up its risk-reduction program for subsidiary Integrys Energy Services Inc. The company said it expects to have divested "a substantial portion of its nonregulated business" by early in the second quarter. The divestitures were aimed at reducing collateral support requirements for any capital invested in the nonregulated business, the company said. The Canadian trading arm of Shell Energy North America LP bought nearly all of the natural gas and power customer contracts of Integrys Energy Services of Canada Corp. (see NGI, July 20, 2009). Minneapolis-based U.S. Energy Services acquired the energy management business of Integrys Energy Services (see NGI, July 27, 2009). Essentially all of Energy Services' wholesale gas marketing business was sold to Sequent Energy Management LP (see NGI, Dec. 14, 2009). And Macquarie Cook Power Inc. acquired nearly all of the wholesale power marketing and trading business (see NGI, Jan. 18). Integrys said it would retain a selected portion of the Integrys Energy Services retail gas and power marketing businesses and has restructured the business to reduce its scale and risk profile.

Ontario-based Epsilon Energy Ltd. has agreed to bring Chesapeake Energy Corp. on board to help develop the Canadian operator's Highway 706 natural gas prospect in the Marcellus Shale. Under terms of the proposed joint venture (JV), Chesapeake would earn a half-stake in the prospect by paying Epsilon C$5 million in cash upfront and carrying the first C$95 million of Epsilon's share of costs in the prospect. The carry obligation is expected to be completed within 30 months of the scheduled closing date Feb. 1, Epsilon said. Still needed is completion of the sales agreement. The Highway 706 JV project covers about 11,500 net acres in Susquehanna County, PA, with 10 MMcf/d of current natural gas production and related compression, pipeline and tap site facilities. Epsilon management said the leasehold position may support 120-150 additional drilling locations (60-75 net).

Martin Midstream Partners LP said its Waskom Gas Processing Co. (WGPC) joint venture has completed its $40 million acquisition of the East Texas natural gas gathering and processing assets of Crosstex Energy LP and Crosstex Energy Inc. (see NGI, Jan. 4). The assets to be purchased consist of 60 miles of gathering pipelines, two compressor stations and three gas processing refrigeration plants. The system's current throughput capacity is approximately 75 MMcf/d, which can be expanded with additional compression. Crosstex plans to use proceeds from the transaction to pay down the partnership's outstanding debt and for general corporate purposes.

Most natural gas and oil industry employees see the value of using social media and collaboration tools at work, but corporatewide endorsement lags behind, according to a survey by Microsoft Inc. and Accenture. The survey compiled answers from 275 professionals who work in international, national and independent energy companies. Of those questioned, 75% said they found value in using the media and collaboration tools, which is up 83% from responses in a similar poll conducted in 2009. Social media and collaboration technology adoption "is primarily a grassroots phenomenon within firms," the Microsoft and Accenture Oil & Gas Collaboration Survey 2010 said. Productivity gains (37%), work flexibility (95%), and the ability to complete projects on time (36%) and on budget (38%) were given as the primary reasons to use the social media and collaboration tools. However, companywide endorsement has not mirrored employee demand. Only 11% of social media adoption is driven by the executive suite, and higher-ups' greatest concerns center around a "limited ability to control or provide a secure environment" (39%), the survey found.

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has scheduled a public workshop for early in February to discuss concerns that have been raised by a proposal from Intermountain Gas Co. to curtail customers with gas-fired snow-melting equipment in the midst of peak-demand periods (see NGI, Dec. 21, 2009). Intermountain told the PUC that snow-melting equipment under driveways and rooftops uses an inordinate amount of gas compared to more conventional uses, and thus the utility wants authority to involuntarily curtail the snow-melting gas use in the midst of peak demand times. Existing customers now can volunteer to be interrupted. In exchange for the interruptible status, new and volunteering existing snow-melt customers would be given a lower rate.

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