Pipeline companies are having a hard time keeping up with therapidly growing coal-bed methane production in the Powder RiverBasin. Coastal Corp.’s Wyoming Interstate Company just put itsMedicine Bow lateral into service last November and the companyalready is filing plans for a second expansion, which will addanother 675,000 Dth/d of firm capacity, bringing the total to morethan 1 Bcf/d.

“WIC has moved quickly on our proposed loop of the Medicine BowLateral to satisfy the requests of producers who have met withsignificant success in developing the Powder River Basin,” saidColorado Interstate CEO Jon R. Whitney. CIG operates WyomingInterstate. “Our proposed loop will enable this prolific basin tocontinue to help meet the growing national demand for natural gas.”

WIC’s application calls for initially increasing capacity by675,000 Dth/d to 1,055,000 Dth/d with the potential to double thatwith added compression. WIC’s existing 155-mile Medicine BowLateral is a 24-inch diameter line that extends from the southernend of the basin near Douglas, WY, to WIC’s mainline southwest ofCheyenne. The proposed loop would parallel the existing line with anew 36-inch diameter line and add 7,170 hp of compression at anestimated cost of $160 million. Producers have committed to 556,000Dth/d of the proposed capacity. WIC plans to have the expansion inservice in December 2001.

The Powder River Basin is the most active coal-bed methane playin the United States. According to a report released by the WyomingState Geological Survey, the most recent data indicate there is 25Tcf of recoverable gas in the basin. “This eclipses previousestimates of recoverable gas that ranged from 9 to 12 Tcf,” thesurvey said. The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commissionpredicts as many as 5,000 new wells will be drilled in the basinthis year.

Since 1998, WIC has spent $108 million to increase gastransportation capacity out of the basin. On Aug. 1, WIC placedinto service additional compression that expanded capacity on theMedicine Bow Lateral to 380,000 Dth/d from 260,000 Dth/d.

“We put the first line in and they almost immediately filled itup,” said Craig Coombs, director of project development for CIG.”They had to pause in their drilling because they hit the capacityof the line. Once we expanded it, drilling started again… It’sover 300,000 Dth/d today, but we are anticipating by next summerit’s going to be full. We may have a capacity [constraint atCheyenne]. We could have a situation next summer and next fallbefore we get the loop in where the existing lateral is full andthere’s no place to take the gas.”

Coombs said there is sufficient takeaway capacity currently atthe Cheyenne Hub on Trailblazer, WIC, CIG, Front Range andWilliams, but that probably will not be the case relatively soon.”In the winter you have space heating load in Denver, which absorbssome of that volume, but I think next summer it could get veryconstrained, and the year after that it could be very tough.”

CIG and Williams are proposing separate greenfield pipelineprojects that would begin at Cheyenne and terminate in southwesternKansas on the Midcontinent pipeline grid, but those projects arethree years from being in service.

“We have to get this going and get the [COCO project] line insoon. We should have been building this now but we’re not going togo out and spend a bunch of money without contracts so that’s whywe’re in this situation.”

CIG is holding an open season through Oct. 6 on the COCOPipeline, a 400-mile pipeline extending from the Cheyenne Hubthrough CIG’s market area storage fields to the interconnection ofseveral Midcontinent pipelines near Greensburg, KS, including ANR,Panhandle, Northern Natural, NGPL, and Williams. CIG currentlyanticipates at least 500 MDth/d of transport capacity for this linewith an in-service date in late 2003. The project is similar toWilliams’ Western Frontier Pipeline, which would extend to HugotonStation on Williams’ Central pipeline system in southwest Kansas.Trailblazer also is planning an expansion of its existing 436-milepipeline system, which runs from Colorado through southeasternWyoming to Beatrice, NB.

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