Friday, January 30, 2009

Energy Transfer to build Tiger gas pipeline through Haynesville Shale

HOUSTON - Energy Transfer Partners LP said on Jan. 27 that it will build a 178-mile, 42-inch interstate natural gas pipeline from Texas to Louisiana through the heart of the Haynesville Shale.
The Tiger Pipeline is expected to cost between $1 and $1.2 billion to construct, depending upon final throughput capacity design, with costs incurred over a three-year period, the company said in a news release.
Initial capacity of at least 1.25 billion cubic feet per day may be increased up to two bcf per day based on the results of an open season, the company said.
Energy Transfer agreed to a 15-year firm transportation pact with Chesapeake Energy Corp unit Chesapeake Energy Marketing Inc. for approximately one bcf per day of capacity.
The project will connect to ETP's pipeline system near Carthage, Texas, extend through the Haynesville Shale and end near Delhi, La., interconnecting to at least seven interstate pipelines at various points in Louisiana.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Keystone XL seeks U.S. waiver to allow higher pressure on line

HELENA, Mont. - Developers of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that will transport Canadian crude oil destined for Gulf Coast refineries are seeking an
increase in the federal limit on pressure within the pipeline. The developers say the higher limit would optimize the flow of oil.
TransCanada Keystone Pipeline of Calgary, Alta., wants to draw on up to 80 percent of the pipeline wall's strength, rather than the maximum 72 percent specified in federal regulations. The higher limit would involve certain pipe specifications and extensive testing, said Jeff Rauh, project representative for Keystone XL.
Notice of the request appeared in the Federal Register. The U.S. Department of Transportation, which includes the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, is accepting public comment on the proposal until Feb. 23.
The nearly 2,000-mile Keystone XL project with a pipeline 36 inches in diameter would start at Hardisty, Alta., enter the United States near Montana's Port of Morgan, pass through eastern Montana, continue through South Dakota and end near the Nebraska-Kansas border. There it would connect to a pipeline that is set for construction in 2010 and would end at Cushing, Okla. A proposed pipeline from Cushing would go through Texas, to the Gulf Coast.
A permit from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality is among requirements for building and operating the pipeline in Montana, where it would cross private, federal and state land. The state agency is taking public comment through March 6 and plans to join the federal government in preparing an environmental impact statement, the draft of which would be examined in public hearings.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Chevron settles Texas pipeline lawsuit filed in 2002

LUFKIN, Texas - Nearly 200 Angelina County property owners and a major oil company have reached a settlement in a property damage and wrongful death lawsuit filed six years ago over alleged complications caused by a 70-year-old
leaky pipeline running through Lufkin.
"We've settled the case," said Kirk Mathis, an attorney for Chandler Law
Offices, which filed the suit.
Property owners alleged in 2002 that Chevron Pipeline Company failed to fix a crude oil pipeline that allegedly leaked for years, causing property damage and in some cases severe health complications for residents, including a rare form of leukemia. Mathis said a large majority of the owners who filed suit had alleged property damages. Only a few had made allegations of health complications or even death as a result of the pipeline, he said.
The amount Chevron paid out to each owner is not being publicly disclosed, nor are any details about the suit, which are part of a confidentiality agreement signed by all parties involved in the settlement.
While the agreement with Chevron was reached at the end of last year, Mathis said he is in the process of drafting up a court motion to have the case formally dismissed.
Chevron Pipeline Company spokesman Mickey Driver said he could not comment on the settlement agreement. Chevron Pipeline, a wholly owned subsidiary of Chevron Corp., is headquartered in Houston.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Colonial Pipeline fine to buy new park for Greenville County, S.C.

GREENVILLE, S.C. - Millions of dollars in settlement money from a major oil spill in the Reedy River more than a decade ago will help fund an expansive new park along the river in the southern part of Greenville County, officials announced on Jan. 23.
The county will use $2.7 million set aside in the South Carolina Mitigation Trust Fund supplied from the Colonial Pipeline Company’s $7 million fine levied in 1999.
The money will go to buy 87 acres at the historic Cedar Falls area and another 17.5 acres at New Harrison Bridge Road where the river widens downstream and courses through picturesque rural landscapes, state Rep. Eric Bedingfield said during a ceremony above Cedar Falls.
The project will provide for nature trails, picnic areas and recreational access to the river from a site known for its historic dam that provided electricity to the Fork Shoals mill, a school and a doctor’s office.
Most of 2009 will be spent planning the development, but work will begin in time for an expected completion in spring 2010, said Gene Smith, the county recreation district’s executive director.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Arkla Energy pipeline crosses new fault line discovered in Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - A previously unknown fault in eastern Arkansas could trigger a magnitude 7 earthquake with an epicenter near a major natural gas pipeline, a scientist said on Jan. 21. Haydar Al-Shukri, the director of the Arkansas Earthquake Center at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, said the fault is separate from the New Madrid fault responsible for a series of quakes in 1811-12 that caused the Mississippi River to flow backward. The new fault lies west of Marianna, Ark., about 100 miles east of Little Rock, but stretches of fine sand mixed with fertile soil gave away the fault's location, Al-Shukri said. Liquefied sand bubbled up through cracks in the earth, while ground radar and digs showed vents that let the sand reach the surface, he said. The fault, likely created in the last 5,000 years, sparked at least one magnitude 7 earthquake in its history. Such temblors cause massive destruction in their wake.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Enbridge says still committed to syncrude pipeline to Gulf Coast

HOUSTON - Enbridge Inc. says it is still committed to pipeline projects that will bring oil to Texas, the company said on Jan. 20.
Enbridge spokeswoman Jennifer Varey told the Houston Business Journal that Calgary-based Enbridge’s joint-venture plans with BP Pipelines (North America) Inc. to construct a pipeline extension to ship tar sands oil from Illinois to BP’s Texas City refinery - possibly connecting to other area refineries and pipeline systems - is still on track for startup in 2012 with initial capacity of 250,000 b/d. Total cost of the project is between $1 billion and $2 billion.
The third portion of the Gulf Coast strategy, dubbed the Texas Access Pipeline, is also still proceeding after being delayed from 2011 to 2014, Varey said.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

El Paso Natural Gas, Navajo Nation settle right of way suit for $350 million

A years-long fight between the Navajo Nation and El Paso Natural Gas Co. over a pipeline right of way easement has been settled with a deal that will pay the tribe about $350 million over 20 years.
That's more than 10 times what the previous lease brought in for the tribe, which battled fiercely for higher payments when it expired in 2005. The tribe and the Houston-based company reached an agreement on the economic terms of a lease last year, but jurisdictional issues remained a sticking point, said Arvin Trujillo, director of the tribes Division of Natural Resources.
The Tribal Council's Resources Committee finally approved the agreement earlier this month. It still must go before the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, but Trujillo called that a formality.
Under the agreement, El Paso, which operates 900 miles of pipeline on the reservation, will pay the tribe $18 million a year for the lease that expires in 2025. The previous lease signed in the mid-1980s was valued at $29 million.
"We're wanting to continue our relationship with El Paso," Trujillo said. "We did go through some very difficult negotiations at different points and times. Positions were made but, again, it's part of the process."

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Palin says instate gas pipeline for Alaska top legislative priority

ANCHORAGE - Gov. Sarah Palin began the 2009 session of the Alaska Legislature on Jan. 20 faced with a potential state deficit in the billions of dollars.
Palin said the state has saved money and, with oil prices in flux, it's too soon to say what the budget will look like.
Palin said this session should be about cooperation between her and legislators, especially on proposals like an in-state natural gas pipeline. Business people, legislators and state officials have discussed such a "bullet line" in recent months to bring cheaper energy to Fairbanks and Southcentral. Palin didn't give a specific plan, but said it would be her main effort.
"My focus is going to be on energy and making sure that Alaskans have access to their resources. In-state gas is top priority for me," Palin said in an interview.
If oil prices average $40 a barrel between now and the end of the budget year in June, the state will fall $2 billion short in covering the current budget, said legislative finance director David Teal. Should prices remain that low over the following year, legislators said the deficit could rise by an additional $3 billion.
Savings could cover such a shortfall for a while. The state has more than $7 billion in savings accounts, most deposited last year when oil prices soared.
Palin's spending plan for next year is based on her revenue department's forecast that oil will rise to average more than $70 a barrel in the year starting in July. The U.S. government's Energy Information Administration is predicting prices more in the $43-$55 barrel range over the next two years. That is a sore point with some legislators, who say the governor is leaving them to deal with a big mess if the state's forecast does not come true.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Enbridge puts Trailbreaker pipeline expansion on hold

CALGARY, Alta. - Enbridge Inc. has shelved plans for a $346-million pipeline expansion that would have shipped western Canadian crude through Ontario and Quebec to markets in the United States.
The company said on Jan. 16 that the project, dubbed Trailbreaker, did not have the required support among oil companies, which would have had to commit firm volumes to the pipeline.
"Given the current economic climate, we're putting the project on hold," Enbridge spokeswoman Jennifer Varey said from Calgary, where the company is based.
The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the industry lobby group, had declined to support the pipeline expansion because it did not offer attractive returns for western producers.
The company planned to ship 150,000 b/d of diluted oilsand bitumen sent by pipeline through Sarnia, Ont., to Portland, Me., then by tanker to the Gulf Coast. The project would have required Enbridge to reverse the flow of a pipeline that now moves imported crude from Montreal to refineries in Sarnia.

Friday, January 16, 2009

TransCanada says construction of Keystone Pipeline won’t be delayed

CALGARY, Alta. - Delays to projects planned by Canadian oil producers and U.S. refiners will not hamper construction of TransCanada Corp's $12 billion Keystone oil pipeline to the United States, as most of it is already booked with committed crude volumes, an executive said on Jan. 14.
The pipeline, being built as far as the U.S. Gulf Coast in two phases, has attracted more than 900,000 b/d of oil in long-term shipping contracts from companies with projects either producing now or under construction, Russ Girling, president of TransCanada's pipelines division, said.
Billions of dollars worth of Canadian oil sands development plans have been either put on hold or deferred indefinitely as oil prices have dived and credit markets have frozen up in recent months.
"The cancellations you've been hearing about haven't had a large impact on our project because we were never planning against those projects anyway," Girling told reporters after giving a speech to an Insight Information oil sands conference. "We were planning against the (Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers) original forecast, which risked a lot of those projects."

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Police overestimate value of diesel stolen at Seattle terminal

SEATTLE, Wash. – Turns out Seattle police have trouble with zeroes. A theft of diesel fuel from a Seattle terminal, originally estimated at $20 million by police, should have been reported as $2 million, and even that number should have been closer to $1 million. 
Seattle police say someone installed a phony meter on a fuel-delivery system at the BP distribution center on Harbor Island, resulting in the theft of 350,000 gallons of diesel fuel over nearly a year.
According to the police report, a manager at the Harbor Island terminal in
Seattle reported earlier in January that the thefts had been discovered and were likely tied to similar losses reported at a BP distribution center in Long Beach, Calif.
Police said the terminal manager's staff uncovered a pattern of fuel losses and subsequently discovered that a fake meter had been installed in the facility's pump-delivery system. The manager reported that the fuel thief had apparently unscrewed a protective cap on the pump system, accessed the legitimate meter, replaced it with a phony meter and replaced the cap, police said.
Officials with BP PLC said about 350,000 gallons, valued at about $1 million, were stolen from the Seattle distribution center.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Canadian oilsands exec mystified by firebombing of home in Edmonton

EDMONTON - A former top oil executive and his wife are searching for answers after the firebombing of their Edmonton home on the weekend left them homeless.
“My wife and I are deeply saddened by the loss of our home and our personal possessions,” said Jim Carter, a former Syncrude Canada Ltd. president and chief operating officer, in a news release.
“At the moment, we have very little information about what may have transpired or why,” Carter said.
Patrycia Thenu, an Edmonton police spokeswoman, said investigators are still hunting for a motive in the arson case, including possible connections to eco-terrorism. “Nothing has been ruled out,” she said.
Edmonton police revealed on Jan. 12 that several Molotov cocktails were recovered inside the charred remains of the Carters' luxury home in a southwest Edmonton neighborrhood.
A witness reported seeing four youths running from the area at the time the fire began on Jan. 10 around 8 p.m., according to police.
Nobody was in the two-story home at the time of the blaze, and damage is estimated at $850,000.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

59,000-gallon Chevron crude leak in Utah was from three-inch line

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah - Chevron Pipe Line Co. crews were working on Jan. 9 to clean up about 59,000 gallons of crude oil that leaked from a ruptured pipeline south of Vernal on Jan 7-8.
A Chevron official said a three-inch feeder pipeline ruptured near Bonanza, 30 miles south of Vernal, allowing about 1,400 barrels of crude to leak onto the frozen ground, which is BLM land.
The event may have been related to the cold temperatures in the Uinta Basin.
Cold air jells the oil and keeps it from flowing far, said Houston-based Chevron spokesman Mickey Driver. "It's not free-flowing, so it's not going anywhere."
The three-inch line - which connects to the major pipeline that travels from the Uinta Basin to Chevron's Salt Lake City refinery - was shut down when the leak was detected early Jan. 8.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Shell shutdown of crude line to California refinery leads to accusations

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - Soon after its parent company filed for bankruptcy protection Dec. 22, Big West closed its refinery in Bakersfield for what was to be 10 days of routine maintenance, but it has yet to come back on line. Some say Shell Oil is trying to use its leverage to put the plant it sold to Big West in 2005 out of business. Concern about the facility's fate has been growing since Big West's parent, Flying J Inc. of Ogden, Utah, filed for Ch. 11 bankruptcy protection on Dec. 22. The company shut down the Bakersfield refinery soon afterward for what it said would be 10 days of routine maintenance. On Jan. 8, Kevin Cable, committee chairman for the United Steelworkers, singled out Shell as one of the main obstacles to the reopening of the plant. In a memo to refinery workers, he said Shell was demanding onerous payment terms from Big West to resume crude deliveries and that it had closed pipelines to the facility, preventing shipments from other suppliers.
Tim Kollatschny, a supply manager for Shell, confirmed that Shell had closed a single pipeline to the Bakersfield refinery and suspended crude deliveries while it negotiated with Big West. But he denied that Shell was seeking unreasonable terms or that it had the power to shut down the facility. Kollatschny said Big West had other means to get the crude it needed and that Shell supplied "less than 20 percent" of the 50,000 to 60,000 barrels of crude processed there daily. 1/12/09 To read the full story, subscribe now to Energy Pipeline News.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Kelliher to step down as FERC head with Obama inauguration

WASHINGTON - Joseph Kelliher will step down as chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) effective Jan. 20, coinciding with the end of the Bush administration.
Kelliher, a Republican, initially will stay on as one of five commissioners "but will immediately begin to recuse himself from FERC business as he explores other career opportunities," said agency spokeswoman Mary O'Driscoll.
His decision to step down as chairman had been expected as President-elect Barack Obama is all but certain to select a Democrat to head the agency that oversees power grid reliability and wholesale natural gas markets.
President George W. Bush nominated Kelliher to the commission in 2003 and named him chairman two years later. Kelliher, as a senior Energy Department official, was a key participant in Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force that issued its report in 2000.
Internal documents, later released after lengthy legal fights, showed Kelliher, who had been the Energy Department's point man on the task force, was closely involved in soliciting energy industry advice as the Cheney report was being developed. Critics of the report said it depended too heavily on industry views and ignored environmental and consumer advocates.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Enbridge cleaning up 4,000-bbl. spill spill at oil sands terminal

CALGARY, Alta. - Enbridge Inc, Canada's No. 2 pipeline firm, said a malfunctioning valve at an oil storage facility in the oil sands region of northern Alberta has spewed out 4,000 barrels of oil, but the spill was mostly contained on the grounds of its tank farm.
The company, whose pipelines carry the lion's share of oil sands crude to U.S. markets, said the spill occurred Jan. 3 at its Cheecham terminal south of Fort McMurray, Alberta, when a small fitting on a valve failed.
"It was primarily contained," said Gina Jordan. "A small amount was outside the terminal but the majority of the leak was contained."
Enbridge said the spill had not cut shipments on its pipelines from the oil sands.
Greenpeace spokesman Mike Hudema, whose group publicized the spill, said he considered the incident another blow to the environmental track record for the oil sands and called for increased regulatory scrutiny of activity in the region, which has the biggest reserves outside the Middle East.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Pipeline limited partnerships rebound sharply following selloff

Shares of pipeline operators plunged in the waning months of 2008, but have rebounded sharply in the first few days of 2009.
Atlas Pipeline Partners, for example, rebounded from $5.20 a share at yearend 2008 to $10.25 at end of day Jan. 6, up almost 100 percent, and was paying a $3.84 annual dividend. Eagle Rock Energy Partners, paying $1.64, jumped from $4.50 a share to $8.02. Enbridge Energy Partners, paying $3.96, jumped from $24.03 to $30.20. Plains All American, paying $3.57, ran from $32.00 to $38.98. Williams Partners LP, paying $2.54, jumped from $$11.50 to $16.34. And Buckeye Partners, paying $3.50, ran from $30.25 to $36.80.
In 2008, companies such as Enterprise Products Partners and El Paso Corp. have struggled with falling share prices, tight credit markets and a shifting mix of shareholders that has eroded their stock prices.
Enterprise fell almost 35 percent last year, while Kinder Morgan Energy Partners dropped 15 percent and El Paso plunged 55 percent. The declining shares led to El Paso’s removal from the Standard & Poor’s 100 Index.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Attorneys for Colonial Pipeline retirees seek information

The National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) in Boston, which represents clients nationwide with income below the poverty level for their area, has filed an ERISA lawsuit in Boston against insurer/plan administrator Unum for sending checkbooks to life insurance beneficiaries instead of the lump sum payment called for in the policies.
The NCLC has filed a lawsuit against Met Life in New York for the same practice. The organization intends to file suits against other insurance companies to stop all of them from defrauding beneficiaries by keeping their life insurance proceeds under false pretenses and investing that money for their own profits.
The insurance companies tell the beneficiaries that their money is safe in FDIC-protected checking accounts, but they do not fund the accounts until the beneficiary writes a check. The insureres tell the beneficiaries that they can write checks only if they have a financial need of $250.00 or more. If the insurer becomes insolvent, the beneficiaries will lose their life insurance proceeds retained by the insurer and not deposited in FDIC-insured accounts.
Attorneys who represent certain Colonial Pipeline Co. retirees are seeking information from beneficiaries of company-provided life insurance policies, who, after the death of the insured employee or retiree, were provided a checkbook instead of a cash lump sum payment from the insurance company. The most recent life insurance companies used by Colonial are Unum, Transamerican and Hartford. Beneficiaries with information are asked to contact Helen Cleveland at Roberts, Erck & Cleveland, 945 East Paces Ferry Road, Suite 2220 Resurgens Plaza, Atlanta, Georgia 30326-1125, 404-760-2792 direct, 404-233-2404 fax.finsurance fraud,

First Unum castigated as bad actor in court decision

An insurance company that also serves as a plan administrator for a number of energy pipeline companies has lost another court decision.
The company is First Unum. Among the plans it covers are the life insurance and long term care plans of Colonial Pipeline Co.
Colonial turned to Unum to administer its life insurance and long term care plans after it dumped Hartford and then TransAmerica.
Unum has been the subject of uncomplimentary coverage by “CBS 60 Minutes” and “Dateline.” Those stories focused on the way in which Unum fraudulently denied claims filed by covered employees or retirees.
The company’s bad reputation was acknowledged in a Dec. 24 decision handed down in McCauley v. First Unum Life Ins. Co., 2008 U.S. App. LEXIS 26094 (2nd Cir.)
The Second Circuit Court decision is a significant one for several reasons, not the least of which is that the court considered the company’s bad reputation in making its decision.
The First Circuit Court in Massachusetts noted in an earlier suit against Unum that “First Unum is no stranger to the courts, where its conduct has drawn biting criticism from judges. A district court in Massachusetts wrote that ‘an examination of cases involving First Unum... reveals a disturbing pattern of erroneous and arbitrary benefits denials, bad faith contract misinterpretations, and other unscrupulous tactics.’”
The First Circuit Court in its decision involving Unum listed more than 30 cases in which First Unum’s denials were found to be unlawful, including one decision in which First Unum’s behavior was “culpably abusive.”
In light of First Unum’s well-documented history of abusive tactics, the Second Circuit found that Unum’s history of deception and abusive tactics was additional evidence that it was influenced by a conflict of interest as both plan administrator and payor in denying McCauley’s claim for benefits in his case.
In the case, McCauley claimed to have suffered from a diverse set of symptoms following treatment for colon cancer. Unum persisted in denying disability benefits, both before and after the participant attempted to find employment compatible with his disabilities.
The Court found that Unum’s conduct reflected questionable motives.
It summarized its finding against Unum as follows:
(1) First Unum operated under a conflict of interest because it was both the claims administrator and payor of benefits;
(2) First Unum’s reliance on one medical report in support of its denial to the detriment of a more detailed contrary report without further investigation was unreasonable;
(3) First Unum deceptively indicated to McCauley that the medical professional assigned to review his records was a medical doctor when the individual was in fact a nurse, failed to obtain a physician’s recommendation, and mischaracterized its rationale for continuing to deny benefits;
(4) First Unum has a well-documented history of abusive claims processing; and
(5) observations (2), (3), and (4), above, collectively lead to the conclusion that First Unum was in fact affected by its conflict of interest.
In light of these observations, the court found that a reasonable trier of fact could only come to one conclusion: First Unum’s denial was arbitrary and capricious. It then awarded McCauley summary judgment in his favor.