Exxon Company U.S.A. will buy a coastal processing facility 25miles west of Santa Barbara from a Southern California Gas affiliate for an undisclosed amount, it was announced last week.The plant processes 60 MMcf/d of offshore California natural gasproduced by Exxon’s Platform Honda.

The deal involves Exxon buying the stock of Pacific OffshorePipeline Company (POPCO), an affiliate of SoCalGas under the SempraEnergy corporate umbrella, within the next 60 to 90 days. SoCalGaswould continue to be the buyer for the plant’s output underlong-term contracts it has had in place for the last 15 years,except for revisions made in 1994.

Exxon decided to exercise an option it obtained in 1994 to buythe gas processing facility as part of SoCalGas’s global settlementwith its major suppliers and shippers as a means of attempting tohelp make its transportation more competitive in the face ofincreased competition from two new interstate pipelines enteringthe California market in the early 1990s. Exxon had a five-yearoption to buy that would have expired at the end of this year.

Included in the purchase is an eight-mile pipeline from theoffshore gas production platform in the Santa Barbara Channel tothe onshore processing plant that cleans the gas for transmissionand distribution among SoCalGas’s other supplies that range between2 and 3 Bcf/d.

The processing plants currently employees 51 people, all of whomare slated to be laid off when the deal is finalized, although someof them may be offered jobs with Exxon when it takes over or inothere parts of the Sempra Energy companies.

Sempra Energy officials said it has transition plans in placewith Exxon to ensure the continued “safe operation of the plant andcompliance with all government regulations.”

Exxon had been reviewing the POPCO plant operations andfinancial data throughout 1998 before making its purchase decision,”so this exercise of the purchase option does not come as acomplete surprise,” said Mike Walker, POPCO’s president. “However,Sempra Energy Resources would gladly have continued ownership ofthis efficient and profitable business.”

Richard Nemec, Los Angeles

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