FERC has approved Columbia Gas Transmission’s customer settlement that proposes $1.5 billion in upgrades to the pipeline system over the next five years.

Under the settlement, the pipeline proposes to invest about $300 million annually, in addition to a million in ongoing maintenance, over the 2013-2017 period on system improvements, including the replacement of about 1,000 miles of large-diameter interstate pipeline, primarily bare steel; replacement and modernization of more than 50 critical compressor units; uprating pressures and looping systems; and expanding inline inspection capabilities.

The settlement, which was filed in September, establishes a mechanism for Columbia to recover the revenue spent to build and modernize its facilities.

A subsidiary of NiSource Inc., the Columbia pipeline projects that its entire infrastructure investment plan could cost about $4 billion over a 10- to 15-year period.

The approval comes more than a month after an explosion on Columbia Gas Transmission’s system near the pipeline’s Lanham Compressor Station near Sissonville, WV, a rural community about 15 miles north of Charleston (see Daily GPI, Dec. 12, 2012). That pipeline did not have inline inspection capability, according to the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the rupture.

Infrastructure work will take place across Columbia’s footprint in Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, where most of the pipeline’s infrastructure is more than 40 years old. Columbia Gas Transmission transports an average of 3 Bcf/d through a nearly 12,000-mile pipeline network in 10 states.

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