In response to a motion by the Department of Justice (DOJ), the U.S. District Court in New Orleans ordered that a security zone be established around the wreckage of the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM). The security zone, which would remain in place until at least Oct. 8, 2011, would extend 750 feet in all directions from the center of mobile offshore drilling unit Deepwater Horizon. The wreckage, which is located in an area known as the Mississippi Canyon, also would extend from the sea floor of the GOM to the sea surface. The federal court ruled that it would be in the interest of the public to protect the search area and any evidence located in the area against intentional or unintentional loss. It directed the DOJ to inform the public and companies about the security zone. DOJ has informed companies, such as oil and natural gas producers, who have the means and equipment to operate in the wreckage site not to enter the security zone. The order will be enforced by the United States using vessels, aircraft or other appropriate means and equipment, the DOJ said. Eleven workers died in the blast aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig, which was owned and operated by Transocean Inc. and leased by BP plc (see NGI, April 26).

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved Dominion Transmission Inc.’s (DTI) request to begin service on new facilities that will accommodate capacity from Rockies Express Pipeline LLC (REX). DTI, in its Hub III Project, has constructed 9.42 miles of 24-inch diameter pipeline that looped Dominion’s existing line TL-342 in Greene County, PA, and rewheeled an existing turbine compressor unit at its Mockingbird Hill Compressor Station in Wetzel County, WV. DTI, a subsidiary of Richmond, VA-based Dominion Resources, estimated the cost of the new facilities at approximately $35 million. The facilities, which were completed on time, will enable DTI”s current customers to reassign primary firm receipt rights from their current receipt points to a new Dominion interconnection with REX at Clarington, OH, the terminus of the REX pipeline. In a 2007 open season, 12 of Dominion’s existing firm transportation customers executed binding precedent agreements modifying their existing primary receipt point rights, according to the October 2009 order approving the project (see NGI, Nov. 19,2007). Under the modified agreements, these customers will receive total capacity rights of 224,317 Dth/d at the Clarington Interconnect, while correspondingly reducing primary receipt point capacity at their existing receipt points.

Enbridge Gas Distribution Inc. is holding a binding open season through 2 p.m. EST Nov. 15 for firm gas storage service at its Tecumseh Gas Storage facility near Dawn in southwestern Ontario. Enbridge is offering up to 13.7 million gigajoules (GJ), or about 13 Bcf of new capacity, which is to be phased in over three years with 3.2 million GJ (3 Bcf) being added in 2011 and 5.3 million GJ (5 Bcf) being added in each of 2012 and 2013. Information is available at or by contacting Jody Sarnovsky at (416) 495-6785.

Fort Worth, TX-based Quicksilver Resources Inc. has entered into a confidentiality agreement with a group of investors that includes Quicksilver CEO Glenn Darden, Chairman Thomas Darden and the Darden family-controlled Quicksilver Energy LP. The group may seek to take Quicksilver private. In October Quicksilver received a letter from the group announcing its intentions (see NGI, Oct. 25). The company said it will disclose to the investor group certain nonpublic information. The investor group has agreed that for the next six months it will not acquire any additional equity interest in Quicksilver Resources without the prior approval of the Quicksilver board’s transaction committee. The committee told the group that it does not intend to waive certain restrictions of the Quicksilver shareholder rights plan, as had been requested by the investor group, until it receives and evaluates a proposal from the group.

GE Energy Financial Services, a unit of GE, is expanding its oil and gas reserves investing business by offering loans for development drilling. In its first transaction, the GE unit loaned an undisclosed amount to Columbus, OH-based Knox Energy Inc. to drill natural gas wells in central Ohio. Knox, which was founded in 1998, specializes in gas production, primarily in Ohio.

Louisiana Lt. Gov. Scott Angelle has switched his party affiliation to Republican from Democrat — a decision that was largely motivated by what he sees as the Democrats’ dislike of the oil and natural gas industry in general, and the imposition of the blanket moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico specifically. During the past five months as lieutenant governor, “I’ve been in the federal courts, court of appeals. I’ve listened to the arguments from both sides of the issue. I’ve read the reports from the bipartisan commission. I’ve heard the excuses from the Department of Interior, the White House staff, [and] the director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy. I’m convinced that national Democrats see oil and gas companies as bad for America. I am convinced there’s a bias against the oil and gas industry that does not exist against other industries, like the automobile industry,” he said at the Republican Leadership Summit in Baton Rouge, LA. This “leads me today to be Louisiana’s newest member of the Louisiana Republican party,” said Angelle, who also has served as Gov. Bobby Jindal‘s Department of Natural Resources secretary and chief liaison to the legislature.

For the second consecutive year, the Oregon Public Utility Commission (PUC) announced it is lowering retail natural gas charges for the state’s three major private-sector gas distribution utilities, effective Monday (Nov. 1). In line for smaller monthly bills are customers of Portland-based NW Natural, Spokane, WA-based Avista Utilities and Seattle-based Cascade Natural Gas Corp. The PUC changes the rates annually to keep them aligned with wholesale prices. The amounts of the adjustments vary because of different buying strategies on a company by company basis, the PUC said. NW Natural residential customers will get a 1.3% cut from $67.74/month to $66.85, and in January a typical residential user would see about a 1.4% decrease from nearly $130/month to $127.71 monthly; Avista residential customers will see a 2.7% cut from nearly $60 to $58.14/month, with January bills giving customers a 2.9% cut from $115.12 to $111.81/month and Cascade customers will see the largest monthly reduction — 4.8% from $65.80 to $62.66 — and 4.9% from $180.37/month to $171.51 in January.

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