FERC and two other agencies Friday issued a favorable final environmental review of North Baja Pipeline LLC's proposed expansion of the U.S. leg of a U.S.-Mexico pipeline that would deliver up to 2.75 Bcf/d of natural gas from planned liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities on the Baja California coast to customers in California and Arizona.

"If the project is constructed and operated in accordance with applicable laws and regulations, North Baja's proposed mitigation and the agency staffs' additional mitigation measures, it would be an environmentally acceptable action," staffs of FERC and the California State Lands Commission, the state co-lead agency, and the Bureau of Land Management said in the final environmental impact statement/environmental impact report (FEIS/EIR) on the North Baja Pipeline Expansion Project [CP06-61, CP01-23].

The favorable FEIS/EIR puts the expansion project one step away from receiving a certificate from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

North Baja Pipeline is seeking to expand its existing system that extends approximately 80 miles from an interconnection with the facilities of El Paso Natural Gas near Ehrenberg, AZ, through southeast California to a point on the international border between Yuma, AZ, and Mexicali, North Baja California, Mexico, where the pipeline interconnects with the Gasoducto Bajanorte Pipeline. The North Baja system is the U.S. portion of the international North Baja/Gasoducto Bajanorte system.

The North Baja/Gasoducto Bajanorte pipeline was built in 2002 to supply U.S. gas to gas-fired electric generation facilities in Baja California, Mexico. However since that time, a number of LNG storage and vaporization facilities have been proposed for the Baja California coast, near the terminus of the Gasoducto Bajanorte pipeline.

The existing North Baja system is certificated to transport 512,500 Dth/d of gas in a southbound direction. Once the expansion is completed, the system would be capable of delivering up to 2.75 Bcf/d of gas northward from the LNG facilities to customers in southwestern U.S. markets. In addition to the new volumes, North Baja would continue to offer southbound transportation for several existing customers.

The project calls for North Baja to build approximately 80 miles of pipeline loop, including 11.7 miles of 42-inch diameter pipeline from the existing Ehrenberg Compressor Station in La Paz County, AZ, to Riverside County, CA, and 68.1 miles of 48-inch diameter pipeline from Riverside to an interconnection at the U.S.-Mexico border in Imperial County, CA.

It also includes the construction of a 45.7-mile, 16-inch diameter lateral to Imperial Irrigation District's existing El Centro Generating Station in El Centro, CA, as well as interconnections with SoCalGas Co. in Blythe, CA, the El Paso system at Ehrenberg and the Blythe Energy Facility I supply pipeline in Riverside.

The proposed North Baja expansion is expected to be constructed in three phases, with the project targeted for completion by 2009. Phase I would involve modifications at the existing Ehrenberg Compressor Station and Ogilby and El Paso Meter Stations, and construction of an odorant facility, the Blythe Meter Station, SoCalGas interconnect and the Blythe Energy interconnect.

Phase I-A would involve the construction of the Imperial Irrigation District lateral. Phase II calls for the construction of a B-Line adjacent to North Baja's existing A-Line between Blythe and the U.S.-Mexico border.

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