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Sponsors Seek Clean Slate at FERC for Voyageur Project

August 24, 1998
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Sponsors Seek Clean Slate at FERC for Voyageur Project

In a change of strategy last week, TransCanada PipeLines Ltd. and Nicor Inc. notified FERC they were withdrawing their application for their original Viking Voyageur pipeline project to clear the path for a new application on a scaled-down version they intend to file early this fall.

The two sponsors initially had considered amending the original Viking Voyageur application still on file at the Commission, but in the end "we decided that it just probably would not make a lot of sense to do that because [the new planned project] will be substantially different looking," said Ed Werneke, vice president of supply ventures for Nicor. This is a "housekeeping matter on our part to kind of clear the FERC agenda on the Viking Voyageur project."

The project sponsors "have come to the conclusion that because of the significant change in the scope of the project we are better served by filing a new application. However, the work that we did on the Viking Voyageur project, especially the work through Wisconsin and Illinois, is still applicable in large part to the new shortened version. That is still available to FERC to work with," he noted.

The new project, which will be called Voyageur, will be about one-fifth the length of the proposed Viking Voyageur pipeline, will flow northward from the Chicago hub, but still will serve the same markets targeted in the original proposal - northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. Specifically, the Voyageur project will represent just the southern leg of the formerly proposed Viking Voyageur pipeline. The sponsors' plans call for construction of a 140-150 mile, 1.05 Bcf/d line that would begin at the Joliet/Chicago Hub area, where it would interconnect with Northern Border Pipeline and Alliance Pipeline, and would flow gas northward through northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin, terminating just southwest of Milwaukee, WI.

In contrast, the original Viking Voyageur project was proposed as a 773-mile, 1.4 Bcf/d pipeline that would have interconnected with TransCanada at the Manitoba-Minnesota border and brought gas down through Minnesota, Wisconsin and into the market hub in Chicago.

TransCanada and Nicor said they expect to submit a application for the new Viking project, which will be based on the old Viking Voyageur concept, in either September or October. The project, if approved and built, would cut into the transportation markets in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin currently served by ANR Pipeline exclusively.

Werneke doubts that filing a new application on the Voyageur project will it put at a disadvantage with the competition - such as the Illinois Wisconsin Express Project. "We think we still have the head start. A substantial amount of environmental work, engineering work and right-of-way work that was done on Viking Voyageur is in place at FERC on file there. Even though we're withdrawing the application, it doesn't mean that that information is any less valuable," he said.

Werneke further dismissed the notion that the sponsors withdrew the application partly in response to ANR Pipeline's request last Monday for FERC to dismiss the Viking Voyageur filing. "There is no connection. We had already come to the conclusion that we were going to withdraw our application. We were I guess surprised at what ANR did. They seem to take every opportunity they can to...cause us problems coming into their market area."

Voyageur "is planning to build an entirely different project from the one it has on file," complained ANR, whose share of the transportation market in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin would be threatened by a born-again Voyageur project.

As for shipper committments, "we are continuing to work on that. We feel we have substantial support, but until we're through this open season we're probably not going to talk a lot about commitments," Werneke said. The open season ends Sept. 11th.

Susan Parker

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