Looking to provide a new link to Rocky Mountain natural gas supplies, NiSource’s Columbia Gas Transmission Corp. announced Tuesday an open season for firm transportation and storage services on a proposed expansion of its pipeline system from its existing receipt point at Leach, KY. The company said it is also seeking market interest in a potential new receipt point with the proposed Rockies Express pipeline near Clarington, OH.

Columbia said shippers opting to ship gas from either the Leach or the Clarington receipt point would redeliver gas to markets on the east side of Columbia’s system to existing delivery points in operating areas 1, 4, 8 and 10.

In conjunction with the proposed enhancement of its transmission system from Leach and Clarington, Columbia said it is also seeking expressions of interest in a proposed expansion of additional firm storage services (FSS) capacity with associated storage service transportation (SST) to provide no-notice service to the market. Columbia said the expanded facilities could be in service as early as the fourth quarter of 2009 if interested parties are able to quickly move to the execution of binding precedent agreements.

“This project represents an important new link to move supply from expanded production in the Rocky Mountain region…, from newly constructed and planned interconnects on the Columbia Gulf mainline and from existing and planned LNG terminals in the Gulf,” said Christopher A. Helms, president of NiSource’s Pipeline Group. “It will provide increased transportation and storage options for our customers in growing Mid Atlantic and eastern markets. We believe Nisource facilities are strategically placed to provide the best option for these supplies to reach the East Coast.”

The Columbia announcement came on the same day Kinder Morgan and Sempra Energy announced secured commitments for the entire 1.8 Bcf/d of proposed firm transportation capacity on the 1,323-mile Rockies Express project, which would bring Rocky Mountain natural gas east to markets across the Midwest and Northeast (see related story). Kinder Morgan and Sempra reported that they are considering potentially extending the Rockies Express pipeline to the Leidy Hub in Pennsylvania and possibly even farther East.

Michael J. Strauss, vice-president of market development for the NiSource Pipeline Group, said Columbia also is holding a reverse open season to evaluate proposals from existing customers to turn back firm transportation and/or storage capacity under existing service agreements that may reduce the amount of capacity for which new facilities would need to be constructed.

“The project will add value to the market by allowing our customers the opportunity to diversify their supply portfolios while addressing the need for incremental storage and transportation services where they are needed most,” he said.

The open season will run through 4:30 p.m. CST Friday, March 3. Interested parties considering firm capacity for a minimum 15-year period may obtain a request form by contacting Bernie Schaffler, (703) 227-3265, bhschaffler@nisource.com or Moe McKee at 703-227-3206, lmkee@nisource.com.

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