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Williams Proceeds with MarketLink Project

Williams Proceeds with MarketLink Project

Williams' Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line (Transco) bought $119 million worth of pipe and compressor facilities for the MarketLink expansion Wednesday despite the project's lack of final approval from FERC. Construction is scheduled to begin when MarketLink clears all its regulatory hurdles in the late spring or early summer of next year.

Final environmental approval from FERC is not expected until September, Transco spokesperson Amy Kaiser said. When asked if Transco was being premature about buying pipe for a project that hasn't received final FERC approval, Kaiser said "We are that confident. The draft recommendation was very positive and we want to get going as soon as the final passes are given."

The order for 42- and 36-inch diameter pipeline was made with Napa Pipe Corp. and Berg Steel Pipe Corp., while the compressor units were ordered from Solar Turbines and Dresser-Rand. Pipeline and compressor design work is ongoing with engineering contractors Gulf Interstate Engineering Company and Paragon Engineering Services Inc.

"Commitments to contractors and suppliers are being made to ensure that we have all the materials in place, ready to go once the regulatory process concludes," said Cuba Wadlington Jr., senior vice president and general manager, Williams' Transco pipeline system.

Walter Ferguson, chief advisor for FERC Commissioner Curt Hebert Jr., said the purchases were not premature. "As a general rule, many companies make major purchases before final approval. Does this mean the project is certain to be approved? Only the five commissioners know that. The landscape is changing in accordance with all the environmental groups getting involved with major projects like this MarketLink. But history tells us that once a pipeline project demonstrates suitable need, which MarketLink has, the environmental side can be mitigated."

The MarketLink project, along with the associated Independence project, received a positive draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) from FERC last month (See NGI, April 26). Some of the reasons for the FERC staff recommendation included 67% of the proposed pipeline routes would be adjacent to or overlap existing pipeline and powerline rights-of-way and both Independence and MarketLink have agreed to use mitigation procedures to reduce soil and water-related impact.

"We are encouraged by the recent progress the project has made, especially in light of the DEIS prepared by the FERC," Wadlington said. "The DEIS confirmed our position that we have chosen an appropriate route for the project, which is particularly critical to serving the increasing natural gas demand throughout the eastern seaboard."

Transco expects the $528 million expansion, which will transport gas from the Leidy Hub in western Pennsylvania to New York City, to be in service Nov. 1, 2000.

John Norris

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