The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has issued an order accepting in part and rejecting in part Columbia Gas Transmission's proposed natural gas quality specifications.

In the order issued Friday [RP06-231], FERC ruled that a compliance filing submitted by Columbia in May 2006 failed to satisfy an agency complaint order because it "still leaves it [Columbia] with too much discretion to change its gas quality standards without notice to customers." It ordered the pipeline to submit a revised compliance filing within 30 days.

The Commission, in an April 2006 order, directed the NiSource Inc. pipeline to revise its tariff to eliminate what it said were "unjust and unreasonable" provisions. The order addressed a complaint filed by Colorado-based producer Norstar Operating LLC asking that Columbia be promptly directed to interconnect its pipeline system with Norstar's casinghead natural gas well in Ohio.

FERC denied Norstar's plea for an interconnect, but the Commission agreed with Norstar's argument that the 4% nitrogen standard cited by Columbia in rejecting Norstar's request for an interconnect was not included in the pipeline's tariff, and therefore was not authorized by the Commission. FERC ordered Columbia Gas to submit a compliance filing justifying its use of a 4% nitrogen standard. Centennial, CO-based Norstar, wholly owned by Norstar Petroleum Inc., has since resolved its complaint with Columbia.

The Friday order also addressed a Section 4 filing in which Columbia sought to incorporate into its tariff the gas quality specifications from its meter set agreements (MSA) as well as a number of proposals concerning gas quality made in comments or data responses [RP06-365]. The Section 4 proposal was submitted in May 2006 as well.

"In these proceedings, Columbia generally proposes to include in its tariff the same gas quality and interchangeability specifications that have been in its MSAs since at least 1996. The specifications in the MSAs appear to have worked well for all interested parties. Columbia has had minimal operational problems related to gas quality, and shippers have not complained about the quality of the gas they have been receiving...Accordingly, the Commission approves most of the gas quality and interchangeability specifications proposed by Columbia in its Section 4 filing," the order said.

However, it expressed concern with the pipeline's proposal for a cricondentherm hydrocarbon dew point (CHDP) safe harbor of 15 degrees Fahrenheit to deal with hydrocarbon liquid dropout on Columbia's system. "The Commission rejects as unsupported Columbia's request to incorporate a 15 degrees Fahrenheit CHDP safe harbor into its tariff as proposed...Columbia has provided the Commission with virtually no system data to support its request," the order said.

"Under the current 25 degrees Fahrenheit CHDP MSA limit, Columbia is required to accept all gas with a CHDP of 25 degrees Fahrenheit or less. The more restrictive 15 degrees Fahrenheit with a 25 degrees Fahrenheit CHDP limit could result in shippers having to tender to Columbia gas of a materially different quality or risk having it rejected. Under the 15 degrees Fahrenheit safe harbor proposal, Columbia could refuse to accept any gas with a CHDP between 15 degrees Fahrenheit and 25 degrees Fahrenheit by posting a limit lower than 25 degrees Fahrenheit," it noted.

FERC ordered Columbia to make 25 degrees Fahrenheit CHDP available to all customers. "This term and condition of service is just and reasonable, and it should be available to all open-access shippers on a nondiscriminatory and not unduly preferential basis."

The Commission approved Columbia's proposals for a Wobbe Number of 1,350 plus or minus 4%, subject to a maximum Wobbe Number of 1,400 and a maximum Btu limit of 1,110 Btu/standard cubic feet (scf); an exception to its proposed Wobbe Number and maximum heating value limit for Appalachian gas; a 4% total inerts limit; a 1.25% carbon dioxide limit specification; a 0.02% oxygen limit specification; and sulfur limit of 2 grams/100 scf; a limit of seven pounds of water vapor per million cubic feet of gas.

However, FERC rejected the pipeline's tariff proposal addressing six standards for natural gas that is received by Columbia and delivered by Columbia. "The Commission rejects as unsupported and unjust and unreasonable Columbia's proposed delivery standard provision. Columbia's sole argument in its May 22 filing for the adoption [of the proposal] is that it is 'nearly identical' to a provision accepted by the Commission for Crossroads. Columbia provided no empirical data to support its vague and broad delivery point provision," the order said.

The Commission approved Columbia's proposal identifying the procedures for when it will grant, suspend or revoke a waiver of its proposed gas quality standards.

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