An explosion and fire triggered a force majeure on the Northern Natural Gas pipeline system at the unmanned Kermit Compressor Station in West Texas early last Thursday morning. There were no injuries but the explosion demolished several buildings and a portion of the 30-inch diameter mainline at the station, which is in a sparsely populated area in Winkler County, Northern officials said.

About 13 receipt points and 75 MMcf/d of supply were affected, according to a Northern Natural spokesman. “The fire is out and our goal is to restore gas service as safely and quickly as possible,” Northern Natural spokesman Mike McGowan said Friday afternoon. “We’ve established two teams: one to focus on the investigation of the cause of the incident; and the other team has been focused on repairs to the plant and returning the system back to service. We have not determined a cause. There is significant damage. A full assessment of that damage is currently underway.

“A repair plan is being developed that will include building a temporary pipeline that will bypass the compressor station,” said McGowan. “Once that is completed then we should be able to restore the deliveries that were in place before the incident. It may not take care of all of it, but it should restore most of it. We hope to have the temporary pipeline completed in the next several days, and that will allow us to focus on permanent repairs. I would say it will be in service early to mid week.”

He said customers would have to source their gas deliveries from other pipelines in the meantime. “We declared a force majeure situation so everyone knows that we can’t deliver gas through the compressor station.”

Northern Natural Gas is owned by Des Moines-based MidAmerican Holdings Co. The pipeline system was purchased from Dynegy last year after Dynegy won Northern under the terms of a loan agreement with Enron prior to Enron’s bankruptcy (see NGI, Jan. 7, 2002; Aug. 19, 2002).

Although it has a capacity to transport 3.8 Bcf/d, Northern usually moves about 2 Bcf/d in the shoulder months. The Northern system extends from West Texas to markets in the Upper Midwest.

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