Williams’ Northwest Pipeline, working to get its pipeline between Sumas and Washougal, WA, restored and back in service, said it was prioritizing segments of the 278-mile, 26-inch line that will provide the most capacity to the system.

The line was shut down last December following the second of two explosions within eight months (see Daily GPI, Dec. 23, 2003). In a letter to customers Friday Northwest said it would schedule a combination of hydro tests and internal inspections of the priority segments. The testing would be started up in March with the goal to restore some segments to service by summer 2004.

Northwest participated in a formal hearing with the federal Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS) and the Washington Utilities Transportation Commission (WUTC) in Denver on Jan. 21 “to clarify certain provisions of the Amended Corrective Action Order (CAO) issued on December 18, 2003. As a result of the January 21st hearing, within 30 days OPS will publish a clarification on the questions raised by Northwest.”

In the CAO and at the Jan. 21st hearing, Northwest said OPS stressed the requirement to incorporate hydro testing as a means to confirm and demonstrate the integrity of the 26″ line and to provide OPS with the data needed to allow restoration of service.

In addition to planning for interim restoration of maximum operating pressure in segments of the existing 26″ line, Northwest said it also is proceeding with plans to replace the contractual capacity of the line, even though full replacement may not ultimately be required.

Northwest said the replacement plan will likely include fewer miles of larger diameter pipe along with additional compression. The company will be meeting with customers to determine their needs and then will offer the most efficient means of providing the actual transportation capacity required. Williams will submit its plans to FERC for review and approval. Williams is fully prepared to make the financial resources available to support the replacement project.

“Northwest is working diligently to demonstrate to OPS, our customers and the citizens of Washington State our commitment to the safe and reliable operation of our pipeline system.”

In announcing its decision to close the pipe in December Williams said it would have no immediate impact on its ability to meet market demand this winter because it has a parallel 30-inch line in the same corridor with capacity at its northernmost receipt point at Sumas estimated to be 950,000 Dth/d.

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