Looking to increase system reliability of the eastern United States, Hardy Storage Co. LLC said Monday natural gas is now being stored in the nation's newest storage field. The company began accepting nominations for injections this week at the new facility in Hardy and Hampshire Counties, WV.

Hardy Storage received a certificate in 2005 from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to convert a former natural gas production field into underground storage to serve the growing U.S. demand for storage. The project is a joint venture of subsidiaries of Columbia Gas Transmission Corp. and Piedmont Natural Gas Co. Inc. Columbia Gas Transmission, a unit of NiSource Inc., is operator of Hardy Storage.

"Piedmont will benefit from Hardy Storage both as a customer and an investor," said Piedmont CEO Tom Skains. "Hardy adds a cost-effective and diverse underground storage asset to our supply portfolio, and will yield favorable returns to our shareholders as part of our growing list of strategic industry-related joint ventures."

When fully developed in 2009, the field will have a working storage capacity of 12 Bcf. Injections made this year will allow the field to deliver up to 100,000 Dth/d of gas during the winter heating season beginning in November 2007; 150,000 Dth/d beginning in November 2008, and 176,000 Dth/d by November 2009.

Hardy Storage conducted an open season in 2004, resulting in full subscription of the project's storage capacity under long-term, firm contracts. The storage customers are Washington Gas Light, Piedmont Natural Gas, Baltimore Gas & Electric and the City of Charlottesville, VA.

As a result of the new storage facility coming on-line, Columbia Gas Transmission said it is expanding its natural gas transmission system to provide the capacity needed to deliver the storage supplies to customer markets.

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