The proposed Southern Trails Pipeline from the Paradox Basin ofNew Mexico to Long Beach, CA, could be delayed three to six monthsbecause of additional environmental assessment work underway aspart the federal and state regulatory processes, according to aSalt Lake City-based spokesperson for Questar Corp., which boughtthe pipeline for $40 million last year from ARCO. Nevertheless, theconverted 700-mile pipeline should be bringing 120 to 130 MMcf/d ofgas into California by the end of next year at the latest.
Budget, engineering and customer sign-ups are still on target,said Chad Jones, the Questar spokesperson, adding that his companyis “real close” to announcing its first customer contracts for theconverted pipeline, which initially was scheduled to open nextspring.
The old timetable assumed that environmental impact reportswould only cover portions of the converted oil pipeline where theexisting route and equipment are going to be altered. Instead,regulators have required a comprehensive environmental assessmentof the entire route as though a new pipeline was being built, Jonessaid. Therefore, startup could slip to the third or fourth quarterof 2000. Conversion activities, which are not expected to take along time, may be delayed. The work anticipated involves addingseven compression stations and making small modifications to the16-inch-diameter pipeline related to its carrying natural gas,compared to its historic use as a circa-1957 oil pipeline. Includedare former ARCO’s Lines 90, 91 and 92.
Questar already has struggled to meet regulatory deadlines. FERChas warned the company it may dismiss the project application ifthe company doesn’t come forward with requested data before the endof the month. Kevin P. Madden, director of FERC’s Office ofPipeline Regulation, said Questar initially had assured his staffit would submit the information — cultural resource surveys,erosion control and revegetation plans and identify additional landrequirements — by April. Based on that commitment, FERC staffwent ahead and noticed the application on March 16. But thedeadline has long since passed and glaring deficiencies stillremain. A Questar spokesman said the company would comply withFERC’s request.
The proposed pipeline, as envisioned by Questar, would serve asthe last leg of a planned three-part delivery chain (with Questarand TransColorado Gas Transmission as the other legs) that wouldbring cheaper Rocky Mountain gas supplies into the southernCalifornia market. TransColorado is a 50-50 partnership betweenQuestar and KN.
Richard Nemec, Los Angeles
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