FERC Thursday approved a request to begin constructing looping of Columbia Gas Transmission's pipeline system to transport natural gas to and from affiliate Hardy Storage Co.'s underground storage project, which is under construction in West Virginia.

The Hardy Transmission Project calls for Columbia Gas, a NiSource Inc. pipeline, to loop its existing pipeline in Shenandoah, Rockingham, Page, Greene and Louisa counties in Virginia and in Baltimore County, MD. The expanded facilities would allow Columbia Gas to move natural gas from the Hardy Storage project to key markets on the East Coast.

In November 2005, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a certificate for the development of the 12.4 Bcf underground natural gas storage facility in two partially depleted gas production fields in West Virginia, and for Columbia Gas Transmission's proposed transmission facilities to deliver the gas to parts of West Virginia, Maryland and Virginia [CP05-144-000. A 13-mile, 20-inch diameter pipeline will connect the field to Columbia's transmission system.

Hardy Storage said it expects most, if not all, of the construction of the $122 million storage project to be completed by the fall of 2008. It anticipates storage field injections will begin this spring.

The storage field is expected to operate at 57% of capacity in its first year of operation, with withdrawal capability of up to 100,000 Dth/d during the 2007-2008 heating season, according to the company. It is expected to reach 85% of its ultimate working gas capacity in the 2008-2009 winter season, with withdrawal capability of up to 150,000 Dth/d (eventually ramping up to 176,000 Dth/d).

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