Millennium Gains Ground; Upstream Links Filed
TransCanada Pipelines and Westcoast Energy subsidiary St. Clair
Pipelines last week filed with Canada's National Energy Board to
build the last remaining support components required for
development of the Millennium Pipeline project, a 700 MMcf/d gas
line designed to serve markets throughout the Northeast.
St. Clair's 50-mile Millennium West Pipeline would pick up 700
MMcf/d of gas at Union Gas' Dawn Hub in Ontario and deliver it to
Patrick Point on the Northwest shore of Lake Erie at a new
connection with TransCanada. The St. Clair portion would cost $165
The TransCanada portion, called the Lake Erie Crossing, is a
61-mile, 36-inch diameter line to the middle of the lake at the
U.S. Canadian border and a connection with Millennium. It would
cost $161.8 million to build.
TransCanada said seven shippers have signed precedent agreements
and subscribed for almost all of the 700 MMcf/d firm transportation
service along the Lake Erie Crossing. "This application reflects
our commitment to provide customers with the downstream connections
they need to take advantage of lucrative U.S. Northeast and
Mid-Atlantic markets," said John Carruthers, vice-president of
business development for TransCanada Energy Transmission.
Meanwhile in concert with the progress on the Canadian side of
the border, Millennium sponsors expressed optimism that they are
making progress on the regulatory front in the U.S. Project Manager
David Pentzien said he expects Millennium to receive its first
regulatory green light from FERC in January and be well on its way
to meeting a winter 2000 in-service date.
The in-service date of the $650 million project from Lake Erie
to New York was questioned in September by FERC staff because
sponsors were not meeting data requests on a timely basis. "We were
just starting to open the flood gates in the September-October time
frame," said Pentzien, "so in retrospect it looks like they made
their comments based on what they had. What they received over the
next two months basically [met] every outstanding environmental
data request so I think they're probably in a different position at
this point. I think they would probably say we are back on
Pentzien said he still expects to receive the final
environmental impact statement and the final order from FERC in
June or July. But he said even if FERC is a couple months late with
its final order on the project, it wouldn't delay the in-service
date. "It's really a two-year construction window. I think what
we're saying is even if we were to hit a delay of a month or two on
the certification we still have some time to make that up given the
two-year construction schedule." He expects FERC will issue a
preliminary determination on non-environmental grounds and a draft
environmental impact statement in January "given what we've
supplied to them."
Pentzien said some of the environmental aspects of Millennium
that were expected to be huge hurdles turned out to be speed bumps.
"Lake Erie has become a very manageable process." He said the
biggest obstacles have been things thrown in the way by
competitors. Competitors have drawn FERC's attention to all sorts
of environmental issues that really aren't environmental issues at
all, he said. Landowners haven't been much of a problem because
Millennium utilizes such a significant amount of existing right of
way: 86% of the line. "We're seeing about one-seventh the landowner
protests that Independence [Pipeline] is," he said. "We're talking
almost a whole order of magnitude less than Independence."
Independence is a Millennium competitor proposed to cross Ohio and
end in western Pennsylvania at the Leidy Hub where it will connect
with a downstream project.
Pentzien also noted the markets along the Millennium project
have grown substantially. He mentioned Southern Company buying
Orange and Rockland's power generation. "You don't buy existing
assets and let them sit there and not run. They are very interested
in upgrading and consuming more natural gas. With the recent
announcements by American National Power and Sithe, we've got 2,000
MW that are within 3,000 feet of Millennium over on the extreme
east side. The last year had a marked increase on the power plant
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