Extremely cold temperatures have hammered away at the amount of gas kept in storage by Columbia Pipeline Group (CPG), with the company experiencing its second-largest withdrawal since 1993.

John Shelton, director of storage for Columbia Gas Transmission (TCO), told analysts during an operations update Thursday that the company's source customers are holding 30% of their contract quantities in place, about 10% less than the five-year average. He said November was the coldest in the TCO operating region since 1996, and withdrawals in November -- about 20 million Dth, or 8.2% of total storage -- were the largest for that month since 2000.

Temperatures were average in December, but TCO saw a greater-than-average storage drawdown, Shelton said. About 44 million Dth was withdrawn. Combined with November, the withdrawal totaled 25.6% of total storage and was the largest since 2000. He added that January was the coolest on record since 2000-2001, and the November-January withdrawal from storage was the second-highest at 53.1% of total storage.

"It's been pretty relentless this year as far as utilization," Shelton said. "Add it all up, and for those three months we just experienced the second-largest withdrawal from storage since the implementation of Order 636 back in 1993. These cold temperatures have resulted in storage drawdowns that have been unending and look to be continuing at least into March.

"We're only talking about a two-day differential, two days of withdrawal difference. If you were around back then, you will remember that winter was the one where it didn't warm up again until mid-March. It sure looks like Mother Nature is providing us an encore performance."

January's withdrawal was just short of 70 million Dth.

"Of course, TCO is not alone," Shelton said. "Storage in general across the country has been well communicated; it's very low. We're looking at 1.44 Tcf as of [Feb. 14], roughly 35% in place for the nation as a whole. It's 5% more than what we are currently holding in place.

"The spell of warm weather that [we had] decreased flowing supplies and the overall demand from storage. This lower demand will help us recharge the storage pressures temporarily. We may be able to set in several facilities in the very near term, but this withdrawal performance will continue on a slow decline through the remainder of the winter, absent any significant time periods of capability to put gas back into the ground."

Bruce Ruhlin, managing director of gas control and planning, said the company was still investigating the cause of a Feb. 13 pipeline rupture to CGT Line 200 that occurred just south of the Clementsville Compressor Station in Adair County, KY. He said a 25-mile segment of the 30-inch diameter pipeline south of Clementsville remains isolated and completely out of service.

"We're still able to maintain operations and meet our commercial obligations with Lines 100 and 300, and with line 200 at a reduced pressure restriction," Ruhlin said.

In a construction and maintenance update, senior account representative Tom Koontz said there was a high probability that non-firm service through TCO's KA Low Segment would be impacted by annual maintenance at the Grant Compressor Station in West Virginia. He added that there was a low probability of form service being impacted. Work at Grant is scheduled to begin on March 17 and end by April 11.

Elsewhere in the southwest, Koontz said there was a high probability that firm and non-firm production meters on suction would be impacted by annual maintenance at the Walgrove Compressor Station in West Virginia, from March 11-14. In neighboring Kentucky, he said there was a high probability that firm and non-firm service on the Boldman Segment would be impacted by a modernization-related control panel upgrade at the Boldman Compressor Station, from April 2-17. Production meters upstream of the compressor station will be shut in.

In TCO's northeast area of operations, Koontz said the entire Delmont Compressor Station in Pennsylvania would be out of service from April 15 to May 2 for a modernization-related control panel upgrade. There was a high probability that firm and non-form service through the Delmont South Segment and deliveries to Tetco Delmont C16 would be impacted. Similar work posed a low probability of impact on firm service through the Delmont South Segment from April 1-15, but there was a high probability of non-firm service being impacted on those same days.

Pipeline work and tie-ins on the TM-7 Loop, which are needed for the Smithfield III Project, would reduce maximum flow capability March 3-17 from Glenville to Clendenin, the latter in West Virginia. Koontz said there was a low probability of impact to firm service through the Clenwayn Segment, but a high probability of impact to non-firm service on the segment.