NiSource subsidiary Columbia Gas Transmission Corp. on Tuesday launched an open season to offer firm transportation capacity to existing and potential natural gas shippers on a proposed expansion of its gas pipeline system in Virginia.

Depending on the level of market support, Columbia Transmission said it plans to expand its system to provide additional capacity from its interconnection with Dominion Transmission’s Cove Point LNG pipeline in Loudoun County, VA, to various delivery points throughout southeastern Virginia. The so-called Tidewater Expansion Project is targeted for in-service on Nov. 1, 2009, it noted.

An application for the project, which would most likely involve looping of existing pipe and additional compression, would be filed at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission sometime in mid-2006, according to NiSource spokesman Kelly Merritt.

The open season will run through Aug. 5. Interested parties seeking firm capacity for a minimum 15-year period should submit a bid package to Columbia Transmission. In addition, existing shippers on Columbia Transmission may participate in a reverse open season by submitting non-binding offers to permanently turn back mainline firm capacity during the open season period.

“The Tidewater area of Virginia is experiencing strong growth in natural gas demand, particularly for residential use as a home heating fuel,” said Christopher A. Helms, president of NiSource’s Pipeline Group.

Columbia Transmission operates 1,100 miles of interstate pipeline in Virginia, serving Washington Gas Light, Columbia Gas of Virginia, Virginia Natural Gas, the Cities of Richmond and Charlottesville, and other local distribution companies.

Existing or potential customers seeking more information about the open season may contact Bernie Schaffler at (703) 227-3265 or at, or John McNamara at (703) 227-3230 or

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