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Rain in SK Slows Alliance, But October Remains the Target

Rain in SK Slows Alliance, But October Remains the Target

Record rainfall in parts of central and southern Saskatchewan has put a damper on construction of the $3 billion, 1.325 Bcf/d Alliance Pipeline, but for the time being sponsors are standing by their projected in-service date, sort of.

One spokesman said the pipeline is on track to meet its Oct. 1 deadline. Another, however, claimed Alliance officials "never said Oct. 1" was the drop-dead target. He said the massive gas project would be in service "sometime in October."

"We have just come through 12 days of very wet weather in Saskatchewan where we have two crews working. They were shut down for 10 days and just [last Wednesday] they were able to get back out into the field," said Jay Godfrey, Alliance spokesman. "That's the largest portion of construction that we have left to go. Unfortunately, Mother Nature has started throwing spitballs at us, and there's not a lot you can do when Mother Nature throws you a spitball. But we still expect to be in service in October."

The 2,130-mile pipeline system will transport natural gas from northeastern British Columbia and northwestern Alberta to Chicago through a 36-inch diameter high-pressure line. There will be 14 mainline compressor stations: seven in Canada and seven in the US. So far, the project is about 95% complete, according to pipeline officials.

Alliance engineers are building the line in seven separate spreads. Starting in February they began purging air from certain sections by injecting gas through temporary connections with TransGas in Saskatchewan, Natural Gas Pipe Line in Illinois and other partners in Alberta and British Columbia.

"When October comes we won't be in the position that we'll have to start filling the pipe. It essentially already is going to be full," said Godfrey. Connections to 37 gas plants are complete.

"It's obviously going to rain once or twice, and we had that built into the schedule," said spokesman Jack Crawford, "but if it continues to rain we'll have to look at [the date for service]. At the moment we are still on track for Oct.1. [Pushing it back into October] may well happen. All of our plans still center around Oct. 1."

Despite the large amount of work that has been done already, the two spreads in southern Saskatchewan, one in North Dakota and another in British Columbia still have to be built.

"The game plan is to be testing in late September at part capacity," said Crawford. "The game plan also includes that we would buy and sell gas as a pipeline during the test period, buying it in BC and Alberta and selling it in Chicago. Hopefully, we'll be all checked out and ready so we can be at full capacity on Oct. 1.

"They are forecasting clear skies, warm weather and light breezes. I suppose the worst case scenario is - and what we've actually discussed with our shippers - that if we do not make Oct. 1 or 2, rather than just delay it a couple days, we will continue to test for something like two weeks, so we would start Oct. 15. If it continues to be delayed for whatever reason we would start Nov. 1."

Rocco Canonica

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