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FERC, GISB Rank Alongside IRS In Customer Satisfaction

FERC, GISB Rank Alongside IRS In Customer Satisfaction

Customer satisfaction with gas pipeline transportation in North America has shown a marginal 2% improvement over the past two years, with 30 pipelines achieving a higher ranking while almost an equal amount of pipelines (27) experienced a decline, according to a bi-annual survey released by Mastio &amp Co. last week.

Pipeline customers ranked Mississippi River Transmission (MRT) of St. Louis, MO, the top interstate pipeline, Houston-based Tejas Energy LLC as the leading intrastate pipeline, and Union Gas Ltd. of Ontario at the head of the field of Canadian pipelines. Kern River Gas Transmission, which scored behind MRT, was the most improved pipeline in terms of customer satisfaction since 1996, according to survey results.

"It's good that there's an improvement, although 2% is not a lot. It tells us with every passing day more pipelines are focusing on customer satisfaction or otherwise there wouldn't have been any improvement," said Richard C. Mastio, president of the St. Joseph, MO, company. He pointed out that the latest results were much better than those of 1996, when only seven pipelines showed improvement in customer satisfaction and 32 had declining scores.

For the first time ever, the Mastio survey also ranked LDCs and gatherers, with Arkla Energy Resources faring as the most customer-oriented distributor and Williams Field Services as the leading gas gatherer.

Interestingly, it turned the tables on FERC and the Gas Industry Standards Board (GISB) and rated them according to customer satisfaction. Both the Commission and GISB scored in the low 50s out of a possible index score of 100 - about equal to what the Internal Revenue Service received, the Mastio survey said. Ironically, FERC got lower ratings from pipeline customers - producers and LDCs - than it did from the pipelines it regulates.

"Quite frankly, I expected FERC to do better in the eyes of the customers. Well that didn't happen...they have a pretty lousy score," Mastio told NGI. In fact, the Commission, which had an average index score of 50.3, was ranked lower than every interstate except three, "which would tell me that FERC needs to focus on improvement too," he added. "In all probability, [it's] more a source of the problem...and not the interstate pipelines." Likewise, GISB's score of 55.8 was below those of 40 interstate pipelines.

The results of the survey, titled the "1998 Natural Gas Pipeline Transportation Customer Satisfaction, Marketing Effectiveness, Benchmarking and Image Report," were gleaned from in-depth interviews with 1,110 pipeline transportation customers in North America. Results were collected for 46 interstate, 13 intrastate and seven Canadian pipelines.

Customers ranked pipelines, as well as LDCs and gatherers, on 41 different customer satisfaction attributes, including the competitiveness of transportation pricing, dependability of agreements and commitments, quality of relationships, availability of capacity and storage service, overall service and performance.

MRT, which is owned by NorAm Energy, "had to obviously do well on almost everything to make the top of the list" of 46 interstate pipelines, Mastio said. The other top interstates in order of ranking were Kern River, Sabine Pipe Line, Columbia Gulf Transmission and Columbia Gas Transmission. The five worst customer-satisfaction performers from the bottom up were Midwestern Gas Transmission, Stingray Pipeline, Koch Gateway Pipeline, KN Interstate Gas Transmission and Williston Basin Interstate Pipeline.

In a ranking of 36 long-haul pipelines - systems with at least 1,000 miles of pipe serving three or more states - most of the same pipelines were the top performers. Great Lakes Gas Transmission came in at No. 5, as Sabine dropped from the list.

In the ranking of 11 major pipeline organizational groups, the Columbia Group fared best and was followed by the Williams Group, Duke Energy and Enron. At the bottom of the heap were KN Group, Southern Group and Houston Industries.

Columbia Gas Transmission also captured top billing in Mastio's ranking of 18 mega pipelines, which are systems that have at least 1,000 miles of pipeline and annual deliveries of at least 1 Bcf. Great Lakes and William Gas Pipeline-Texas Gas took the No. 2 and No. 3 spots, respectively. The worst performers in this category were Koch Gateway, NorAm Gas Transmission, an affiliate of top-ranked MRT, and ANR Pipeline.

Channel Industries Gas and PG&ampE Gas Transmission-Teco Inc. immediately followed Tejas Energy as the top ranked intrastates, while Westar Transmission, Delhi Gas Pipeline and Houston Pipeline were at the bottom. In Mastio's listing of seven Canadian pipelines, Nova Gas Transmission and Foothills Pipeline Ltd. captured high marks behind Union Gas, with Westar Transmission scoring the lowest.

In the LDC category, Bridgeline Gas Distribution and Michigan Consolidated Gas held the No. 2 and No. 3 spots, respectively, behind Arkla Energy. Two California LDCs - which happen to be among the largest in the nation - were ranked lowest, with Pacific Gas &amp Electric at No. 7 and Southern California Gas at No. 8.

As for gatherers, GPM Gas Corp. and El Paso Field Services were rated highest in customer satisfaction behind Williams Field Services, while NorAm Field Services was relegated to the cellar - the No. 6 spot.

For further information about the survey, contact Mastio &amp Co. at (816) 364-6200, or log on to the company's web site at

Susan Parker

©Copyright 1998 Intelligence Press, Inc. All rights reserved. The preceding news report may not be republished or redistributed in whole or in part without prior written consent of Intelligence Press, Inc.

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