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Questar Expects Southern Trails Delay

Questar Expects Southern Trails Delay

The proposed Southern Trails Pipeline from the Paradox Basin of New Mexico to Long Beach, CA, could be delayed three to six months because of additional environmental assessment work underway as part the federal and state regulatory processes, according to a Salt Lake City-based spokesperson for Questar Corp., which bought the pipeline for $40 million last year from ARCO. Nevertheless, the converted 700-mile pipeline should be bringing 120 to 130 MMcf/d of gas into California by the end of next year at the latest.

Budget, engineering and customer sign-ups are still on target, said Chad Jones, the Questar spokesperson, adding that his company is "real close" to announcing its first customer contracts for the converted pipeline, which initially was scheduled to open next spring.

The old timetable assumed that environmental impact reports would only cover portions of the converted oil pipeline where the existing route and equipment are going to be altered. Instead, regulators have required a comprehensive environmental assessment of the entire route as though a new pipeline was being built, Jones said. Therefore, startup could slip to the third or fourth quarter of 2000. Conversion activities, which are not expected to take a long time, may be delayed. The work anticipated involves adding seven compression stations and making small modifications to the 16-inch-diameter pipeline related to its carrying natural gas, compared to its historic use as a circa-1957 oil pipeline. Included are former ARCO's Lines 90, 91 and 92.

Questar already has struggled to meet regulatory deadlines. FERC has warned the company it may dismiss the project application if the company doesn't come forward with requested data before the end of the month. Kevin P. Madden, director of FERC's Office of Pipeline Regulation, said Questar initially had assured his staff it would submit the information --- cultural resource surveys, erosion control and revegetation plans and identify additional land requirements --- by April. Based on that commitment, FERC staff went ahead and noticed the application on March 16. But the deadline has long since passed and glaring deficiencies still remain. A Questar spokesman said the company would comply with FERC's request.

The proposed pipeline, as envisioned by Questar, would serve as the last leg of a planned three-part delivery chain (with Questar and TransColorado Gas Transmission as the other legs) that would bring cheaper Rocky Mountain gas supplies into the southern California market. TransColorado is a 50-50 partnership between Questar and KN.

Richard Nemec, Los Angeles

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