Moving one step closer to bringing 1.325 Bcf/d of gas fromWestern Canada to Chicago, Alliance Pipeline announced the start ofconstruction with the clearing of 410 miles of forestedrights-of-way for mainlines and laterals in northwestern Albertaand northeastern British Columbia. The entire system is expected tobe completed and in service by October, 2000. Alliance said italready has commitments from 37 shippers for 15-year contractsworth a total of $8.2 billion.
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Burlington Resources (BR) announced that its plan for 80-acrein-fill drilling of the Mesaverde Formation in the San Juan Basinof New Mexico has been approved by the New Mexico Oil ConservationDivision. The 80-acre well spacing order could open up anadditional 7,000 drilling locations in the San Juan and be a majorfactor contributing to production growth in the basin over the nextfew years, according to basin analyst George Lippman, who hasstudied the San Juan for the last 30 years. To date, BR has drilled38 Mesaverde 80-acre in-fill wells and plans to drill 50 additionalwells in 1999.
The only non-affiliated shipper that has signed up for firmtransportation service on the Maritimes & Northeast Pipelineproject clearly is regretting it now. Boston Gas told FERC lastweek a request by Maritimes in January to amend its pipelinecertificate, eliminate about 140 miles of laterals in Maine andraise its mainline rates 61% because of the loss of numerous U.S.markets shows a lapse in rationality.
Texas producers laboring under the weight of low commodityprices are on their way to getting a temporary tax break from theTexas legislature. Last week, the Texas Senate passed S.B. 290,which grants a severance tax exemption to marginal gas and oilwells producing 90 Mcf/d or less or 15 barrels/d or less. Reliefwould kick in when gas drops below $1.80/MMBtu and/or oil dropsbelow $15/barrel for three consecutive months on the New YorkMercantile Exchange.
The first of a series of industry-sponsored meetings aimed atbringing the divided gas segments closer together on some of themajor regulatory initiatives proposed by FERC got underway inHouston last week. Not surprisingly, industry representatives atthe initial session agreed to narrow the “primary focus” of theirnegotiations to two proposals to ease pipeline rate regulation -short-term capacity auctioning and negotiated terms and conditions.
Canadian approvals are expected to fall into place within thenext three months after the U.S. leg of the Alliance PipelineProject earned its environmental seal from FERC last week. “Thisputs us firmly on track,” Alliance spokesman Jay Godfrey said.FERC’s approval of the final environmental impact statement (FEIS)firmed up a schedule that – following a one-year delay due to aprolonged fight before Canada’s National Energy Board – calls forconstruction of the C$3.7-billion (US$2.6-billion), 1.3 Bcf/dpipeline to start next spring. That will be in time for completionand a start on deliveries in the fall of 2000, Godfrey said.
California regulators are expected to begin taking a much closerlook next week at proposals to curb market power in the state’s gasindustry, and their decisions could rapidly accelerate convergenceof the gas and electric industries. Included among the proposals isa plan to force the state’s major utilities to divest gastransmission and storage assets and form an independent gastransmission system operator, replicating part of what was done inthe state’s power industry. California natural gas industryrestructuring proceedings are scheduled to move into overdriveduring four day-long hearings starting April 6 in San Francisco.