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Northwest Plans System Improvements, Pipeline Expansion

Northwest Plans System Improvements, Pipeline Expansion

Northwest Pipeline put shippers on notice last week that it plans to undertake a system enhancement program and will begin taking requests for a pipeline expansion project. The enhancement program, which will involve adding pipeline looping and compression, is designed in part to resolve a supply displacement problem stemming from an expiring contract.

The PITCO/PanAlberta contract covers 144 MDth/d of displacement capacity that operates under operational flow order. Under the contract, Northwest can requires PanAlberta to deliver up to the full amount of gas into its system in order to provide displacement services. The contract is due to expire on Oct. 31, 2003.

Northwest and its shipper advisory board have been discussing potential ways to significantly reduce its existing reliance upon displacement for north flow transportation services in the Ignacio, CO, to Stanfield, OR, corridor.

The notice sent out to shippers last week states that as a partial solution to the displacement contract expiring, "Northwest has identified an economically viable system expansion project that would provide additional physical capacity to resolve a significant portion of the displacement capacity issue. Northwest is pursuing customer support for this project on a rolled-in basis because the system expansion will partially replace displacement capacity with physical capacity in order to improve service reliability and flexibility for existing shippers." It added that any north flow expansion capacity added between Green River, WY, and Stanfield would be "reserved for the contemplated partial displacement fix for the benefit of existing shippers."

A company spokesman would not say how much capacity would be added to accomplish physical northward flow or how much the project would cost. "Right now our enhancement project has not been fully defined," said John Smith, director of regulatory affairs. "The only purpose for this notice is to put shippers on notice that we would be evaluating requests for capacity based on this enhancement being in place. It would include some pipeline additions and compression to eliminate displacement...

"In addition to this system enhancement at some point in the future we're going to have an open season for other shippers that may want to expand," Smith added. "We haven't decided when that's going to be. The reason we are doing that is because construction costs can be reduced if we do it all at the same time."

Smith said once Northwest completes a system design that will enable physical northward flow, it would begin taking requests for expansion services for northward flow and install facilities that accomplish both needs.

Rocco Canonica

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