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Spire STL Pipeline shutdown may affect operations, gas supply: Spire Missouri

Highlights

Curtailment plan could disrupt service to customers

Pipeline said to have helped during February freeze

Spire gas utility Spire Missouri expects a potential shuttering of the Spire STL Pipeline natural gas transportation project to "adversely" affect the company's operations and financial condition.

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Spire Missouri's announcement July 9 came after a panel of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in a June 22 decision vacated the Natural Gas Act certificate for Spire STL and remanded the case back to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for appropriate action.

In a July 9 SEC filing the company said Spire STL pipeline was being taken out of service and would "significantly [constrain]" the utility's ability to secure new pipeline contracts on other systems serving the St. Louis region and it "would not be able to replace that supply based on current market and operating conditions."

If the pipeline is shuttered, Spire Missouri would need to create and implement a curtailment plan that could lead to service disruptions for customers, the gas utility said. Spire Missouri also noted that the pipeline played a role in providing gas service and lowering gas costs during the February extreme weather event.

The 65-mile Spire STL interstate pipeline project is designed to transport 400,000 Dt/d of gas from the Rockies Express Pipeline LLC into the St. Louis area. FERC approved the project in August 2018 and has provided gas supply to roughly 650,000 households and businesses in Missouri since the start of its operations in 2019.

The court decision has drawn mixed reactions from industry experts. Analysts with Mizuho Securities USA in a June 30 note said that while they have grown less positive on Spire STL's outlook, they are also "not entirely convinced the pipeline is doomed to shut down, with avenues to staying open via appeals to the FERC or other legal maneuvers."

"In the meantime, there may be an impact to [Spire's] strategy around procuring natural gas going into the 2021 heating season, not to mention the diversion of resources towards the STL case," the Mizuho analysts said. "However, we see this as likely to be a matter of pricing rather than supply concerns."

Spire Missouri said it will pursue legal and regulatory avenues to secure gas transportation to the St. Louis region. Meanwhile, FERC had said that it plans to review and consider "what action might be appropriate" for the proceedings. The court's decision on the pipeline is now also being used by natural gas pipeline opponents to bolster arguments for more analysis in other pipeline cases.