FERC has ordered Southern Star Central Gas Pipeline Inc., formerly Williams Gas Pipelines Central, to respond to the agency’s “concerns about the progress” on the pipeline company’s lateral project in Kansas and Missouri.

Based on Southern Star’s status report filed on April 2 and the Commission’s inspection of the project on April 12, “you have halted construction, dismissed your contractor, and there is no one performing environmental compliance activities along the pipeline route,” FERC wrote in a letter Tuesday to Southern Star President Jerry Morris.

Moreover, “it is unclear if the horizontal directional drill under the Spring River can be successfully completed,” and “we have received landowner complaints about the failure to complete restoration effort,” the agency said.

Noting that the problems require “immediate attention,” the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ordered Southern Star to file a “sworn report” within 10 days describing how the problems happened, how and when each problem will be corrected, and how the company will ensure that the problems do not occur again in the future.

It became apparent in late February that the project had hit some snags. It was then that Owensboro, KY-based Southern Star requested and received a six-month extension to complete construction and place into service the proposed lateral. It proposed a new start-up date of Sept. 12 of this year (see Daily GPI, Feb. 26).

The project certificate, which FERC issued on March 12, 2003, required Southern Star to put the 16-mile, 20-inch diameter lateral in operation within a year — by March 2004. But due to extended rehearing proceedings at the Commission, the pipeline company said it wasn’t able to begin construction until last August, nearly a year after receiving the go-ahead from FERC’s director of Office of Energy Projects.

The proposed lateral would run from the pipeline’s Southern Trunk 20-inch Loop Line in Cherokee County, KS, to Jasper County, MO, where it would interconnect with an existing 16-inch diameter lateral serving Empire District Electric Co.’s State Line power plant. The project also includes the installation of piping upgrades at Southern Star’s Saginaw compressor station in Newton County, MO.

Empire has entered into a 15-year agreement for 63,800 Dth/d of the lateral’s total capacity of 66,800 Dth/d, of which it intends to use 28,800 Dth/d to meet expanded natural gas requirements at its existing State Line South generating plant and 35,000 Dth/d for new generation at its La Russell Energy Center Plant, also in Jasper County.

Kansas Gas Service has contracted for the remaining 3,000 Dth/d of capacity to support additional growth in its market area.

Owned by AIG Highstar Capital LP, Southern Star Central’s pipeline system spans more than 6,000 miles in the Midwest and Midcontinent regions. It delivers gas in Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming.

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