Friday, February 27, 2009

MasTec fined $1.5 million for Oregon pipeline problems

EUGENE, Ore. - MasTec Inc., the contractor fired after being hired to build a natural gas pipeline from Roseburg to Coquille,Ore., has been ordered to pay $1.5 million in penalties to the U.S. Treasury because of damage it caused to pristine streams and rivers.
U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan issued the order despite finding that
government agencies provided inadequate oversight of the $51 million project. And though the contractor violated the Clean Water Act, the judge said there did not appear to be serious environmental harm.
The project was plagued by problems from the summer of 2003, when work began on the 60-mile long, 12-inch pipeline, until it was terminated. Crews filled streambeds with drilling spoils, threatening fish habitat. Regulators later discovered that project managers had not taken adequate steps to protect
hillsides from erosion, leading to more sediment in fish spawning habitat.
Coos County terminated its contract with Coral Gables, Fla.-based MasTec
in April 2004, and an Oregon firm finished the project later that year.
Residents and environmental groups complained early and often about the
project, contending that the state Department of Environmental Quality,
the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Coos County were lax in their
oversight of a project that crossed sensitive terrain, including dozens
of parcels of private property.
Officials initially maintained that the project was on track and that state and federal clean water laws were being followed. But as contrary evidence piled up, legal battles ensued.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

India’s Reliance seeking to acquire oil storage in U.S.

NEW DELHI - India's Reliance Industries wants to acquire storage on the U.S. East Coast and Gulf Coast to sell fuel, a senior official said. Some deals already in progress are expected to be announced shortly.
"We are looking for storages in the East Coast, the Gulf Coast and the West Coast... We are under process to acquire in East Coast and the Gulf Coast," the company official, who declined to be named due to company policy, told the Reuters news agency.
It was not immediately clear if Reliance would lease or buy the storage.
Trade sources say the volume of the storage facilities could be about 200,000-250,000 cubic meters and a deal is expected to be announced by end-March.
The firm would use the storage to market oil products from its recently commissioned 580,000 b/d refinery, owned by subsidiary Reliance Petroleum.
The new plant, sited next to the group's existing 660,000-bpd refinery, has turned Reliance's Jamnagar complex into the world's biggest oil refining facility.
Reliance recently started gasoline trading operations in the United States, adding liquidity to physical trading. Its office, located in Texas, will trade gasoline both on the U.S. Gulf Coast and New York Harbor markets.
"Southeast Asia is surplus, Europe is almost flat and the U.S. is the only market where they can sell the products. They may float their own brand at a later date," said a trade source.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Colonial indefinitely delays $3 billion expansion as consumption falls

ATLANTA, Ga. - Colonial Pipeline on Feb. 23 said it has indefinitely postponed plans to expand its refined products system from Baton Rouge, La., to Atlanta.
Demand for gasoline and other petroleum products is down, making it difficult to project future market conditions, the company said in a news release.
Tim Felt, Colonial's new president and CEO, said the Alpharetta-based company was "eager to build this new pipeline, but we believe the prudent and conservative approach is best at this time."
Colonial had planned to start construction on the $3 billion pipeline in 2011.
In Georgia, negotiations with about 500 landowners for easements in Cobb. Paulding, Carroll and Haralson counties would have started in 2010.
Now the timeline is uncertain, Sam Whitehead, a Colonial spokesman, said.
Colonial announced plans to build a third, 460-mile mainline next to its two existing pipelines in 2006. Colonial's pipeline system, which runs underground from Houston to the New York harbor, transports about 70 percent of the petroleum used in Georgia, including gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.
Despite the delay, the company is still seeking the permits from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. A decision is expected next month, said State Geologist Jim Kennedy.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Florida Gov. Crist says opposed to Calypso pipeline off Fort Lauderdale

MIAMI, Fla. – Florida Gov. Charlie Crist announced at a town hall meeting in Fort Lauderdale on Feb. 18 that he opposes the proposed Calypso pipeline off the Fort Lauderdale coast, signaling the project's demise.
"If you think about one of these huge tankers being off the coast near many of my friends, so close by, how can you support that?'' the governor asked."So I don't support it"
When a woman in the audience asked Crist to put Calypso to bed, he said:"I think it's already in bed. It's gone."
Calypso is the deep-water natural gas port planned for the waters off their beach. Crist's biggest applause line, by far, came with his promise to kill the project.
Fort Lauderdale city officials and homeowners have been fighting the proposed offshore gas pipeline project for several months. Residents, who expressed safety concerns about the project, gave Crist a standing ovation after he announced his opposition, the first time Crist has publicly signaled his opinion about the pipeline.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Maryland, Baltimore County appeal FERC decision on LNG plant

BALTIMORE, Md. - Maryland and Baltimore County officials have asked federal energy regulators to rescind approval of a proposed liquefied natural gas terminal at Sparrows Point in eastern Baltimore County and an 88-mile pipeline to Pennsylvania.
Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler called the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission decision "hasty" and criticized the commission for issuing its approval order before the completion of critical environmental reviews.
"By all appearances, the order was issued as quickly as possible after the issuance of the final environmental impact statement in an effort to approve the project before the change in presidential administrations," Gansler wrote to the FERC yesterday.
The state also contends that the commission used outdated information about the project's benefits.
"We are saying that the decision was based on incomplete data, where there was the promise of full and accurate data," Austin Schlick, chief of litigation for the attorney general's office, said yesterday. "The commission also misapplied data and misread and understated environmental impacts of this project."

Friday, February 20, 2009

Sunoco shuts Maumee crude oil pipeline in Midwest after spill

HOUSTON - Sunoco Logistics shut a 142,000 b/d crude pipeline linking Ohio to Michigan after an oil spill at the line's pump station in Cygnet, Ohio, Sunoco said on Feb. 19.
The Maumee pipeline was shut down on Feb 18 and it was unclear when it would restart, a Sunoco operating official in Houston said.
Sunoco spokesman Thomas Golembeski said the size of the oil spill - some of which seeped into the nearby Portage River - was not yet known.
The company stopped the leak late on the morning of Feb. 19, according to Thomas Golembeski, a spokesman for Sunoco, which operates the line. Efforts to clean up the spill were under way, Golembeski said. The exact cause of the release remained under investigation, he said.
The pipeline carries 142,000 barrels a day of crude oil.
Industry sources said the pipeline outage was unlikely to affect refinery operations in the Midwest unless it is prolonged.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Ice formation halts LNG deliveries on Algonquin's HubLine system

HOUSTON - Ice formation on Algonquin Gas Transmission's HubLine system prevented a liquefied natural gas tanker offshore Boston from making any
deliveries to the Algonquin city-gates and neighboring markets, company
officials said in a Feb. 13 interview.
According to Platts, deliveries ceased Feb. 1 on Algonquin's HubLine, a pipeline through which LNG from Excelerate Energy's Northeast Gateway terminal enters Algonquin. Flow data also indicated that the three Bcf tanker has unloaded less than 15 percent of its capacity since mid-January.
A spokeswoman for Spectra Energy, Algonquin's parent, said that an "ice-type formation" was found on HubLine on or around Feb. 6. "The formation is related to residual water from hydrostatic testing from last year," Mary Lee Hanley said.
Hanley added that maintenance is ongoing and deliveries have only been
restricted and not completely shut in.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

OGE Energy, Energy Transfer terminate joint venture

OKLAHOMA CITY and DALLAS - OGE Energy Corp. and Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. announced on Feb. 12 that they have terminated their agreement to form a joint venture that would have combined OGE's Enogex midstream business with ETP's Transwestern, and Mid-Continent Express interstate assets and Canyon Resources gathering operations.
Announced in September 2008, the transaction would have created a joint venture with diverse business lines and an expansive geographic platform to pursue growth opportunities in midstream and interstate natural gas pipeline operations. However, OGE and ETP agree that the significant downturn in the national economy and resulting uncertainty in the capital markets have made it unfeasible to complete the formation of the joint venture at this time.
"We believe strongly in the strategic merits of the ETP Enogex joint venture, but conditions in the financial markets are such that any partnership completed in the near term would not likely be economically beneficial to OGE," said Pete Delaney, OGE chairman, president and CEO. "While we intend to revisit the possibility of a partnership again when conditions are more favorable, both companies remain well positioned to move forward with their business plans."
"We regret that the capital markets have prevented us from accomplishing our plans to combine these businesses in a strategic joint venture," said Kelcy Warren, ETP Chairman and CEO. "We have developed a good relationship with, and have a great amount of respect for, the management of OGE, and we look forward to pursuing other opportunities with OGE in the future."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Denali awards contract for design of giant gas treatment plant

JUNEAU, Alaska - The company competing with state-endorsed TransCanada to build a large-diameter natural gas pipeline from Alaska’s North Slope is spending several million dollars on early engineering for a gas treatment facility there.
The plant would be the largest of its kind and could cost $5 billion to $6 billion, said Dave MacDowell, director of media and communications for Denali The Alaska Gas Pipeline LLC, a partnership formed by North Slope producers BP and ConocoPhillips.
The engineering work is a major step toward an open season. Treatment plant costs will factor into the tariffs producers will pay to ship gas through the line.
Denali and TransCanada have competing proposals to build a large-diameter, transcontinental gas line. Denali has actively advertised each step toward an open season.
TransCanada won a state license and up to $500 million through the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act in 2008.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Pipeline blast in Texas shuts down highway after asphalt melts

CARTHAGE, Texas - A gas pipeline explosion at the DCP Midstream gas processing plant rocked the area two miles east of Carthage on U.S. Highway 79 shortly after 10 a.m. on Feb. 11, according to Panola County Chief Deputy David Jeter.
The blast and heat from the resulting fireball damaged the highway, along with nearby vehicles, a home and several private structures.
A second, smaller explosion occurred after first responders arrived, he added.
There were no injuries, but Jeter said it was unlikely U.S. 79 would reopen on Feb. 11. Texas Department of Transportation officials were on the scene to survey road damage caused by heat that melted tar on the pavement, he said.
Authorities evacuated about 20 residents living within one mile of the plant, he said.
A number of companies own gas lines that feed into the processing facility, and it wasn't immediately clear who owns the line that exploded, Jeter said.
About 80 employees work at the plant, which DCP Midstream purchased in 1999, according to spokeswoman Karen Taylor. The investigation could take several days, she said. The company blocked all pipelines feeding into the plant.
Controlled fires continued to burn later on Feb. 11, and Jeter expected the burning to continue to ensure vapors were not released into the air.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

As Cushing nears capacity, downslide in oil prices possible

CUSHING, Okla. - Inventories at the storage hub at Cushing, Okla., the delivery point for U.S. crude futures, have surged to near the available capacity. That is because oil companies are storing crude at Cushing in the expectation that prices will increase in future months.
Analysts say that once the hub's tanks fill to the limit --which at current rates could happen any time--the scramble by suppliers to unload excess barrels could knock already depressed U. S. crude benchmark prices down further.
"Producers would have to offer massive discounts for prompt crude," Nauman Barakat, senior vice-president at Macquarie Futures USA in New York, told the Reuters news agency.
Crude for March delivery on the New York Mercantile Ex-change was around $41 a barrel on Feb. 9.
Cushing's nominal storage capacity is 46.3 million barrels, according to public company filings and industry sources consulted by Reuters. Cushing stocks rose to a record 34.3 million barrels on Jan. 30, according to the U. S. Energy Information Administration.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Williams reactivates Blue Bridge Pipeline proposal along Columbia River

VANCOUVER, Wash. – Williams Pipeline, which pipes natural gas into Washington state’s Clark County, is pushing forward a plan to run a new pipeline up the Columbia Gorge and into the Hockinson area.
The new line would largely run alongside Williams Pipeline's existing pipe, which starts in Stanfield, Ore., and runs along the north side of the Columbia River, passing north of Washougal to meet Interstate 5 near La Center.
The new pipeline would only go as far west as the center of Clark County, not clear to La Center.
Williams suspended field work on the proposal, called the Blue Bridge Pipeline, in November. But company officials planned on Feb. 10 to ask county commissioners for permission to begin surveying a possible route through county-run Camp Bonneville.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Alyeska blunder leads to massive escape of natural gas in pig run

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - A massive release natural gas at Prudhoe Bay that
escaped into a trans-Alaska pipeline pump station could have destroyed the building and caused an extended shutdown of Alaska's North Slope oil fields, pipeline operators and investigators have determined in a preliminary inquiry.
The incident on Jan. 15 occurred as workers for BP PLC used pressurized natural gas to move a cleaning pig through a corroded 34-inch pipeline that was being prepared for decommission.
When the pig became stuck, a large volume of gas bypassed it and went to Pump Station 1.
The rush of natural gas overwhelmed systems before escaping out of storage tanks into the atmosphere.
An investigation by federal and state authorities is under way into the incident, a federal regulator said on Feb. 6.
Officials at Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., the company that operates the 800-mile pipeline, acknowledge that a fire or explosion could have endangered the station's 60-plus workers and caused a shutdown of oil fields.

What to do when co-workers hook up

Following - in honor of Valentine's Day - is an excerpt from My Managers Network newsletter, published by the Ragan Report in Chicago.

Office liaisons can lift hearts -- or just raise eyebrows
By Jessica Levco
There’s something brewing in your office. And it’s not coffee, though it could be sweet -- and steamy.
To honor Valentine’s Day, we’re examining the heart of the office romance and what it means to you and your company. A dalliance between two employees probably doesn’t start over a candlelit dinner, but with a lingering cubicle hello...
Falling in love again …
We searched high and low for the best tale of an office romance gone awry—and found one both places.
Noel Griese, who used to work for a company in Wisconsin, remembers when a male supervisor and a female co-worker were having an affair. One day during lunch, the two skipped sandwiches and went straight to the attic loft above the lunchroom to continue their tryst. Suddenly, in the middle of a crowded lunchroom, the ceiling caved in and the two crashed through – entwined in a state of heightened intimacy.
“Both were slightly injured, but not enough to require hospitalization,” Griese said.
The worst part? Not only did all their co-workers know about it, but so did everybody else in the rural Wisconsin town. Now, that’s a personnel issue.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Flying J puts Longhorn Pipeline up for sale

OGDEN, Utah - Longhorn Pipeline Holdings LLC, a subsidiary of Ogden-based Flying J, is for sale .
Flying J decided to offer the 700-mile pipeline for sale after determining it was no longer "core to its business," said spokesman Peter Hill in New York. The pipeline carries 72,000 gallons of gasoline a day from the Gulf area near Houston to a Flying J storage facility in El Paso, Texas.
"From Flying J's standpoint, it is seeking to maximize value for its creditors and the Longhorn pipeline is a valuable asset," Hill said.
Flying J, its Longhorn pipeline and Big West Refining subsidiaries filed for bankruptcy on Dec. 22 to fix a liquidity crisis brought on by the steep drop of oil prices and trouble getting credit.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Williams files to provide extended natural gas service to Southeast

TULSA, Okla. - Williams on Feb. 2 announced that it has filed an application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to expand its Transco natural gas pipeline by 308,500 dekatherms per day to serve markets in the Southeastern United States.
New service from the 85 North project would be available in two phases, subject to FERC approval. Phase 1 would increase capacity by 90,000 dekatherms per day by the summer of 2010, while Phase II would increase capacity by 218,500 dekatherms per day by the summer of 2011.
"Combined with our Mobile Bay South project, the 85 North expansion creates over half a billion cubic feet of take-away capacity from Station 85 to downstream markets," said Phil Wright, president of Williams' natural gas pipeline business. "The project is strategically positioned to provide Transco customers with access to more than three Bcf per day of new domestic and LNG gas supplies at Station 85 over the next few years."

Thursday, February 5, 2009

National strike averted as Shell, union workers agree to settlement

HOUSTON - About 30,000 unionized workers at U.S. refineries, chemical plants and pipelines reached a deal with industry on a new basic contract on Feb. 3, averting a nationwide strike.
The United Steelworkers Union and Shell Oil Co. - representing U.S. refiners - agreed to a terms of a basic contract that sets minimum wages, benefits and working conditions at 86 energy facilities.
The current contract was temporarily extended past its Feb. 1 expiration so negotiations could continue. The union represents workers at 64 percent of U.S. refineries.
U.S. gasoline futures rose last week on fears that a strike could shutter refineries and tighten up fuel supplies, which are currently plentiful amid weak profit margins for refiners.
Hourly workers represented by the Steelworkers will get a three percent per year pay increase for each of the three years of the contract and pay 20 percent of their healthcare costs, according to sources familiar with the agreement.
The average national wage for U.S. refinery workers is $30.06 an hour.
While a nationwide strike has been averted, local negotiations still might lead to work stoppages at individual plants as workers and managers finish talks over site-specific contracts during the next several weeks.
"The current contracts remain in force until the respective local unions conclude bargaining and ratify their new contracts," said Stan Mays, a spokesman for Shell, which led the talks on behalf of U.S. refiners.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Kinder Morgan’s Plantation Pipe Line to ship biodiesel to Southeast

ATLANTA, Ga. – What is being described as a “technological breakthrough” in transporting biofuels soon will provide a new supply of bio-diesel to fuel distributors across metro Atlanta.
Kinder Morgan Energy Partners L.P. successfully tested last fall the movement of 20,000 bbls. of a biodiesel blend through the Plantation Pipeline system, which runs through northern Georgia on its way from Louisiana to Virginia, according to a report filed Jan. 21 with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Based on those results, the project could be in commercial operation on a limited basis within 30 to 60 days with full ramp-up late this year, said Mark Evans, the Houston-based company’s director of business development.
The biodiesel pipeline innovation comes on the heels of ethanol shipment by pipeline which Kinder Morgan has innovated in Florida.
The Tampa-to-Orlando ethanol project, which went on line in December, made the Central Florida Pipeline the first transmarket gasoline pipeline in the country to transport biofuel.
Until now, shipments of biofuels have been limited to trucks and trains because of problems running ethanol or biodiesel through pipelines. Evans said ethanol corrodes the pipes while biodiesel tends to contaminate other fuels that run through the system, particularly jet fuel.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

State Department taking comments on Keystone XL pipeline project

HELENA, Mont. - The U.S. State Department has begun taking public comment to consider in planning the environmental study of the Keystone XL pipeline, part of a system that will carry Canadian crude oil to Texas refineries.
TransCanada Keystone Pipeline applied to the State Department for a presidential permit authorizing construction, operation and maintenance of facilities at the U.S.-Canada border. The Keystone XL line would start at Hardisty, Alberta, and enter the United States at Montana's Port of Morgan north of Malta.
Issuing the permit requires the department find that doing so would serve the national interest. The pipeline has been profiled as a way to advance U.S. delivery of oil from a friendly source.
Besides triggering an environmental impact statement, the draft of which would be subject to public comment for 45 days, the pipeline proposal brings a review under the National Historic Preservation Act. American Indian tribes and state historic preservation officers are among those who will be consulted, according to the Jan. 28 notice in the Federal Register.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Utah officials drop opposition to Ruby Pipeline as cost jumps to $3 billion

LOGAN, Utah - The proposed 675-mile route of the proposed Ruby Pipeline from the Opal Hub in Wyoming to the northern California border has been moved from central Idaho to a southern path that includes sections of Box Elder, Rich and Cache counties in Utah.
The price tag for the 42-inch-diameter gas line, expected to be in operation by early 2011, has jumped from $2 billion to $3 billion. Environmental, archaeological and subsurface assessments have been completed.
Now the project's fate is in the hands of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington, D.C. An application was filed on Jan. 27 for a FERC certificate of "public convenience and necessity" to construct it, said El Paso spokesman Robert Newberry.
Meanwhile, Cache County officials and residents opposed to the pipeline dropped their opposition.
"Cache County is neutral on this matter," said County Executive Lynn Lemon. "We initially opposed (it) based on requests from landowners (but they have since) agreed to allow Ruby Pipeline to cross their property."
Joining the El Paso staff as an employee is Logan resident Val Grant, who represented the Little Bear Conservation Alliance and the Bridgerland Audubon Society at Ruby Pipeline hearings.