Ten customers with an appetite for up to 750 MMcf/d of additional natural gas supplies showed interest in a potential extension of the North Baja international transmission pipeline, according to the pipeline’s joint backers, subsidiaries of Sempra Energy and National Energy and Gas Transmission, the renamed former PG&E Corp. merchant energy unit now in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings.

The operators reported Thursday there is “strong interest” in having them build an extension connecting the pipeline to markets in Yuma and Phoenix. Gas Transmission Northwest Corp. and Sempra Energy International, the North Baja partners, received the interest in an open season from Sept. 25 through Nov. 10.

Interest came from utilities and natural gas-fired power plants, the companies said. “In addition, there was interest from liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal developers and suppliers seeking to supply gas to these same customers.” The extent and estimated cost of the proposed extension will depend on the ultimate contracts singed for added supplies, a Gas Transmission NW spokesperson said.

The companies’ senior officials said they were encouraged by the interest and that it demonstrates “the key role the North Baja pipeline system will play in moving natural gas from future LNG terminals to new and existing natural gas markets in the West.” Gas Transmission Northwest’s Portland, OR-based Peter Lund said the companies will continue discussions with proposed shippers in the next few months since the interest given in the recently concluded open season is non-binding.

“We are highly encouraged by the interest shown in our recent open season and intend to continue working to provide the expanding Arizona energy market with infrastructure and access to alternative natural gas supplies,” said George Liparidis, president of Sempra Energy International.

The companies said they are still seeking “sufficient interest on the part of these customers to support the construction of the (connecting) facilities.” North Baja currently is a 220-mile transmission pipeline running from the interconnection with El Paso Natural Gas Co.’s pipelines near Ehrenberg, AZ though southeastern California and across North Baja to a point near Tijuana, which it is close to existing and proposed new power plants and with relatively easy reach of proposed LNG receiving terminal sites, one of which is being pushed by Sempra. The pipeline transports 500 MMcf/d.

The pipeline began operating in September 2002, with a 140-mile link through Mexico, and the rest — 80 miles — in the United States. Once LNG begins to flow from the Baja Pacific Coast, the pipeline operators plan to reverse the flow of gas westerly.

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