GE Energy Financial Services plans to invest $150 million to acquire a one-third interest in the Gulf LNG Clean Energy Project, a liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving terminal under construction by El Paso Corp. in Mississippi. Gulf LNG, which is adjacent to the Pascagoula Bayou Casotte Ship Channel, is scheduled for completion in 2011 at a cost of around $1.1 billion (see NGI, Nov. 9, 2009). The facility, which is fully contracted, is to have 6.6 Bcf of storage and be capable of 1.3 Bcf/d sendout. El Paso owns a half stake in the facility, and a subsidiary is managing construction and would be the operator (see NGI, Feb. 11, 2008). The GE business unit would acquire Houston-based Crest Group‘s 30% interest. Sonangol, Angola’s national oil company, also has a 20% interest in the project.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has issued a favorable environmental assessment (EA) of Southern Star Central Gas Pipeline Inc.’s proposed compression expansion at its Elk City storage field near Independence, KS. The project application, which Southern Star filed at FERC in 2009, calls for the company to install a compressor station in Montgomery County in southeastern Kansas to serve the existing Elk City storage field (see NGI, Oct. 19, 2009). The need for the additional compressor comes from the company’s discovery that the existing maximum capacity of the storage field is 33.3 Bcf, or 2.6 Bcf more than it originally thought, and it plans to convert 1.4 Bcf of base gas to working gas. The two combined would increase the working gas capacity of the Elk City storage field by 4 Bcf [CP10-2].

Natural gas hydrates, which could potentially lead to huge energy resources, occur at high saturations within reservoir-quality sands in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM), according to reports unveiled by the Office of Fossil Energy‘s (FE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL). Detailed findings were published from the May 2009 22-day expedition of the GOM Hydrates Joint Industry Project (JIP) Leg II. The NETL, in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey, the Minerals Management Service and an international industry research consortium led by Chevron Corp., issued preliminary findings from JIP Leg II last year (see NGI, May 18, 2009).The initial JIP Leg II reports and the technical summary are available from NETL.

The Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Association (POGAM) and the Independent Oil and Gas Association of Pennsylvania are merging to become the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association (PIOGA) with about 700 members. The ranks of the new organization will include oil and natural gas producers, drilling contractors and service companies, as well as various professional firms, individuals and royalty owners. PIOGA will be based in Wexford, PA, and will employ a five-person staff. PIOGA’s merged 29-member board will provide oversight while various committees oversee transportation, safety, environmental and exploration and production initiatives. PIOGA said it intends to host an annual meeting and a large-scale conference and trade show, as well as yearly industry seminars, public educational meetings and community events.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) named a Houston-based energy/utility consulting company to assess the veracity of the Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) advanced metering implementation program. The Structure Group, an 11-year-old firm involved in global consulting, was selected by the CPUC from among 15 companies or teams that applied for the role of testing and validating meter and billing accuracy of the smart meters being installed by the San Francisco-based combination utility for both retail natural gas and electricity customers. State representatives and consumers last year had raised concerns about the accuracy of the new metering system. The contract is estimated to be worth about $1.4 million and last about four months. The investigation is to begin first concentrating on the San Joaquin Valley area, including its southern region around Bakersfield, CA, where many consumer complaints arose.

Three environmental groups sent an intent-to-sue letter to the Department of Interior (DOI) for not listing sage grouse as an endangered or threatened species. Sixty days’ notice is required ahead of filing a lawsuit under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Center for Biological Diversity, Desert Survivors and Western Watersheds Project said the lawsuit would be filed in a still-to-be-determined federal court because DOI classified the sage grouse only as a candidate for protection under the ESA (see NGI, March 8). Around 250 species considered candidates for protection have been on the list for decades, the groups said. DOI declined to comment because of its policy regarding litigation.

Linn Energy LLC has agreed to buy oil and natural gas properties in the Permian Basin for $305 million, subject to closing conditions. The seller wasn’t disclosed. Closing is expected by May 27 and will be financed with proceeds from borrowings under the company’s revolving credit facility. By mid-year Linn expects net production from the new properties to be about 2,800 boe/d, weighted 75% to oil. Proved reserves are about 18 million boe, with a reserve life of 17 years.

Heavy truck manufacturer Peterbilt Motors Co. rolled out three natural gas-fueled models equipped with the Cummins Westport ISL-G engine, which offers a 320 hp rating and 1,000 ft-lbs. of torque. The vehicles run on either compressed or liquefied natural gas. “Our natural gas Models 384, 365 and 320 demonstrate our industry leadership in developing products that will reduce harmful emissions and provide exceptional fuel efficiency,” said Bill Jackson, Peterbilt general manager.

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