A joint venture of two major western natural gas utilities’ affiliates, Gill Ranch Storage LLC started construction Monday on a site near Fresno, CA, in the northern end of the state’s central valley. Its sponsors are targeting August this year for completion in time for the seasonal storage buildup ahead of next winter.

Late last year the California Public Utilities Commission approved Gill Ranch as a 20 Bcf capacity project in the San Joaquin Valley west of Fresno. The CPUC approved the independent storage facility as a project headed by a unit of Portland, OR-based Northwest Natural Gas and San Francisco-based Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) (see Daily GPI, Oct. 15, 2009).

The developers said the project will use depleted sandstone gas reservoirs. Northwest Natural’s share of the project is estimated at $160-180 million, representing the gas utility’s 75% share of the initial project costs. The project also involves a new 270-mile, 30-inch diameter gas pipeline to connect with PG&E’s existing transmission backbone pipeline (No. 401) north of Panoche, CA.

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