Alliance Service Delay Extended to End of November

Alliance Pipeline conceded yesterday that its commercial in-service date will have to be delayed for the third time, this time until the end of November, because of continued problems with debris in the pipe and trouble getting the enormously complex components of the system working in sync (see Daily GPI, Sept. 11; Oct. 23). The 1,900-mile project originally was supposed to be in service Oct. 1.

"Normal commissioning activities are continuing and most of the debris has been removed from the line," says Alliance CEO Norm Gish. "However, periodic reductions in the flow of test gas due to the debris have complicated the required integration with concurrent commissioning activities at the Aux Sable Liquid Products processing facility near Chicago." A spokesman said the debris included "bits of foam" that came off equipment used to extract moisture following hydrostatic testing.

The complexity of the Alliance Pipeline operations also has led some observers to predict a lengthy delay before commercial service. The pipeline has an immensely complicated system patented by Alliance engineers that is designed to transport gas liquids in a gas phase with the 1.325 Bcf/d of natural gas from British Columbia and northern Alberta through 1,900 miles of pipe to the Aux Sable liquids extraction plant near Chicago. The pipeline also incorporates a cutting edge electronic control system designed to allow the pipeline to be operated by a single pilot in a downtown Calgary control room. Alliance operators say they are actually operating three pipelines: a physical pipe, a paper pipe and an e-pipe, which brings all aspects of the operation together around the clock 365 days a year. "It's a tremendously complicated system and all the parts are interdependent, for it to work, they all have to work together."

Regardless of the delay, however, Alliance already is flowing a large amount of gas into the Chicago market. "At this point in our commissioning activities, the system is flowing at approximately 40 to 50% of capacity. We expect to continue increasing the volume of test gas and approaching our firm delivery capacity of 37.5 million cubic meters (1.325 Bcf) per day prior to the end of November."

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