Pipeline overload?

Regulatory officials in a quandary over pipeline proposals

Officials with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission are encountering a situation in Moffat County they've yet to see.

Two natural gas pipelines have been proposed that run nearly the same route -- straight through the heart of Moffat County.

Colorado Interstate Gas has initiated the FERC pre-filing process on a 179-mile pipeline -- 98 miles of which will be in the same corridor as the proposed 327-mile Entrega Gas Pipeline Inc. project.

The Colorado Interstate Gas pipeline will run from Greasewood to Wamsutter, Wyo.

The 24-inch line will have a capacity of 350 million cubic feet per day compared with Entrega's proposed 2 billion cubic feet per day capacity.

Whether there is enough supply to meet that capacity is yet to be seen and something FERC officials say will be investigated thoroughly before giving either project the go-ahead.

FERC no longer conducts gas supply studies in conjunction with permit applications, but Environmental Manager Larry Sauter said he was considering reviving the process for these two projects.

Company officials say the results of open season will dictate whether there is a need for their individual pipelines. Open season is a bid process where companies submit proposals to fill the lines.

"We expect open season results to dictate where shippers go -- our line or theirs," said Larry Drader, project manager for the Entrega pipeline. "We feel there will be significant commitment to our pipeline."

Although Moffat County Commissioner Darryl Steele said he advocated following existing pipeline corridors as much as possible, the proposal creates issues for FERC and the individual companies.

Sauter said he is in a quandary over reclamation requirements. On one hand, he doesn't want to require one company to do immediate reclamation only to have another dig it up in six months. On the other, he doesn't want to leave exposed soil for six months.

Drader said reclamation will be manageable; it's the possible conflicts over easements and rights of way that concern him.

"If they get shipper support and go forward with the project, it could have a negative impact on our project from a scheduling point of view."

Colorado Interstate Gas officials plan to file an application with FERC in November and want to begin construction in September 2005. Entrega officials expect to have their application into FERC by the end of August with the goal of beginning construction next spring.

The two pipelines bring a total of four proposals in the past three months. Another, proposed pipeline by Questar, a Rocky Mountain natural gas company, calls for 170 miles of 24-inch pipe that could transport 300,000 to 450,000 decatherms per day. A decatherm is a unit of heat that is equal to 1 million BTUs, a standard unit of measurement. A BTU is the amount of heat required to increase the temperature of a pint of water by 1 degree Fahrenheit. It could be in service by fall 2006.

The other, a 20-mile coal bed methane pipeline, would run along Moffat County Road 2.

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210 or at ccurrie@craigdailypress.com

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