South Jersey Gas Co. filed a petition with New Jersey’s Board ofPublic Utilities (BPU) to increase eligibility in its customerchoice pilot program from 25,000 to 50,000. The announcement marksthe second time in the past 12 months the utility has increased thesize of its pilot. The BPU has set Dec. 31 as a deadline to definecomplete statewide gas deregulation. South Jersey said 22,000customers have participated in the program. The utility serves260,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers in thestate.

Apache Corp. completed its purchase of $715 million worth ofShell’s Gulf of Mexico properties Tuesday. The purchase was firstannounced in late April (See Daily GPI, April 30). The assetsinclude 22 producing fields, 18 of which will be operated byApache, 16 undeveloped blocks and access to 3-D seismic datacovering more than 1,000 blocks throughout the Gulf. The propertiesare in water depths of less than 700 feet and have a proved reservelife of more than seven years. The fields’ February productionaveraged 24,900 barrels of oil and 125 MMcf/d. Apache expects totake over operations July 1. The transaction is effectiveretroactively to March 1, 1999. Apache said it raised $655 millionthrough the issuance of 15 million shares of common stock and 7million shares of preferred stock to pay for the cash portion ofthe transaction. The balance was paid through Apache’s existingcredit lines.

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