Southern Natural Gas Co. (Sonat) said it is placing into service the first of three expansion projects that will add a total of 700 MMcf/d of new firm transportation capacity to its system by spring of 2004. All of the projects will serve mainly gas-fired power generation in the Southeast.

“These three expansion projects easily represent the largest expansions we’ve had in recent times,” said Mark Limbaugh, director of business development for Sonat. He said the expansions will bring Sonat’s total firm transportation capacity to 3.4 Bcf/d in June 2004 from 2.7 Bcf/d today. Two of the projects will be on Sonat’s southern pipeline system and one will be on the more northern line.

“We’re no different than any of the other pipelines who are seeing a lot of growth right now; it is largely driven by power generation,” said Limbaugh. “In fact, of the 700 MMcf/d about 94% is power generation. We’re seeing some growth in our industrial and [utility] markets, but it’s mostly been the power generation business.”

He noted that Sonat’s summer loads will go up significantly, but its winter throughput also will be rising because some of the new power plants are base load and there is some traditional growth on the system.

“Our three pipeline expansions will provide firm transportation for new power plants with a total generation capacity of approximately 5,500 MW located across Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina,” said Jim Yardley, president of Southern Natural Gas.

The first phase of its $140 million South System Expansion I will include 35 miles of looping and 39,000 hp of compression, increasing firm capacity by 140 MMcf/d to serve demand from power generation customers. Southern Co. will use some of the capacity to serve the first phase of its Goat Rock facility in Lee County, AL. South Carolina Pipeline is using the remaining amount to provide service to a repowered South Carolina Electric and Gas power plant in Macon County, SC.

Sonat will then add another 25 miles of looping and 15,000 hp of compression, providing an additional 196 MMcf/d of firm service to serve a second power plant at Southern’s Goat Rock facility and a new unit of Southern Co.’s Harris plant in Autauga County, AL. That phase will be in service by next June.

The $230 million South System II project will serve load farther east on Sonat’s pipeline system. It will provide capacity for a new combined-cycle gas-fired unit of South Carolina Electric and Gas in Jasper County, SC, a combined-cycle power plant being built by Progress Energy in Effingham County, GA, and a Calpine cogeneration plant in Columbia, SC. That project, which hasn’t been approved yet by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, will add more than 300 MMcf/d by May 2004.

Sonat also is in the process of expanding its North System to provide about 33 MMcf/d of new capacity to local distribution companies in the Birmingham, AL, area. It received FERC authorization for the North System project last November.

The three pipeline expansions will cost about $400 million to build, according to Limbaugh, and are fully supported by long-term firm transportation agreements.

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