The Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service hasscheduled a meeting in Houston to discuss implementation of itsGulf of Mexico Royalty In-Kind pilot program, which is slated tobegin in October. The three-year program will involve thecollection and sale of as much as 800 MMcf/d of royalty gas fromfederal leases in the Gulf. It is the MMS’s third RIK pilot, all ofwhich are being conducted to determine the feasibility andeconomics of accepting royalties in kind rather that as a cashpayment from lessees. The meeting on the Gulf RIK will begin at 10a.m. on July 20 at the MMS Houston Compliance Division Office RM104, 4141 Sam Houston Parkway East. It is open to the publicwithout reservation. Lessees, operators, payers and potentialpurchasers are encouraged to attend.

Meridian Resource Corp. said it has extinguished the large fireat its Thibodaux No. 2 well near Amelia, LA. The well “bridgedover,” blocking substantially all the flow of natural gas, thecompany said. The underground geologic formation collapsed into thewell bore as a result of the high pressure and flow rate ofescaping gas, which created a natural “bridge” that temporarily isblocking the gas flow. A small fire continues to burn debris andresidual natural gas near the well but will be allowed to safelyburn itself out. The height of the flames has been reduced to lessthan 12 feet from about 150 feet. Meridian CEO Joseph A. Reeves Jr.said, “This is great news in that our well control specialists andfirefighters on the scene can accelerate access to the well site bycloser dredging and debris removal under safer conditions with muchless heat and noise. Dredging operations may last another three orfour days,” he said last Thursday. “Once debris removal and wellinspection is complete, our team can determine the best and safestmethod for capping the well.” The well fire was caused by alightning strike June 23. No one was injured, but 11 families wereevacuated from Avoca Island June 25 as a safety precaution.Meridian said the well was scheduled to be placed in production inJuly with 18 MMcf/d of gas.

Dynegy has fired up its first constructed, owned and operatednatural gas-fired peaking plant, the 250 MW Rocky Road Power Plantnear Chicago, in time to serve the summer air conditioning load.Dynegy plans to sell the power generated at the merchant powerplant into the wholesale electricity market. As a peaking plant itwill run on an as-needed basis. The Rocky Road plant is part of thecompany’s previously announced plan to back up its trading unitwith a $5 billion generation expansion program. Dynegy is aiming toown or control more than 70,000 MW of generating capacity by 2003.It has 6,800 gross MW operating or under construction and recentlyannounced plans for two natural gas-fired 500 MW plants, one inHeard County, GA and another in Oldham County, KY.

Shareholders of New Century Energies and Northern States PowerCo. approved the merger of the two companies last week. The newcompany will be named Xcel Energy Inc. At separate specialshareholder meetings in Denver and Minneapolis, more than 83% ofthe voting shares of both NCE and NSP voted in favor of the merger.The merger, announced on March 25, still requires state and federalregulatory approval, which is expected to be completed in nine to15 months. Under terms of the merger agreement, holders of NCEstock will receive 1.55 shares of stock in Xcel Energy for each oftheir NCE shares. Each share of NSP stock will become one share ofXcel Energy.

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