Equitable Resources Inc.’s Equitable Midstream unit has launched an open season for expansion of its gathering and transportation systems within the Marcellus fairway from south-central West Virginia to Northwestern Pennsylvania.

The expansion, called the Marcellus Eastern Access Hub, would provide incremental capacity, which will in turn help increase gas production, the company said. The expansion would also provide Appalachian producers with operational flexibility and access to additional storage capacity.

Equitable said the Marcellus Eastern Access Hub would provide access to the premium markets in the Eastern and Mid-Atlantic states through interconnections with National Fuel Gas Supply and Tennessee Gas Pipeline in northwestern Pennsylvania, Texas Eastern, Columbia Transmission and Dominion Transmission in western Pennsylvania, and Columbia Transmission in central West Virginia.

“This project is both exciting and unique, because it gives producers multiple options to reach major pipelines using one of the largest midstream gathering companies in Appalachia,” said Equitable Midstream President Martin Fritz.

The move follows erroneous reports last month that Equitable Resources was pulling out of the Northeast Passage pipeline project (see Daily GPI, Aug. 20). At the time the company said it merely has altered its game plan to get its Appalachian gas to market. The company initially was interested in the Northeast Passage project, which it and Tennessee Gas Pipeline planned to develop, as a vehicle to deliver its Kentucky gas to market. But Equitable has decided that it could meet that need with Tennessee’s proposed 300 Line expansion. Equitable Resources said it is still interested in Northeast Passage as a possible vehicle to carry its Marcellus gas production from southwestern Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Equitable Midstream said it is now seeking nonbinding commitments from producers to help define the the Marcellus Eastern Access Hub expansion by identifying production access and firm delivery points. Bids are due by Sept. 30.

The company noted that the first phase of the expansion is scheduled to be placed into service at year-end 2008, with the second phase beginning service in November 2011. Interested producers may contact Andy Murphy at (412) 395-3358 or amurphy@eqt.com.

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