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Columbia Gas' Mountaineer XPress seeking to start up more facilities in West Virginia

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Latest approval request covers 20 miles of pipeline in two counties

THQ Marketing would be served by 250 MMcf/d in additional firm capacity

Houston — TransCanada's Columbia Gas Transmission asked US regulators on Thursday for approval to begin service on additional segments of its Mountaineer XPress pipeline that will allow the operator to provide another approximately 250 MMcf/d of firm capacity.

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The 2.7 Bcf/d natural gas pipeline in West Virginia is part of a wave of new infrastructure designed to boost the flow of shale supplies from the Appalachian Basin in the US Northeast to downstream markets.

The latest request to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission covers more than 20 miles of 36-inch pipeline in Marshall and Wetzel counties and related equipment. It follows previous approvals in October, November and January for other portions of the project, which encompasses about 165 miles of greenfield pipe in West Virginia along with three compressor stations, upgrades to three existing compressor stations and construction of smaller pipeline segment.

"Columbia anticipates mechanical completion of the facilities that are the subject of this request as early as February 11," the operator's in-service request states. "Columbia will notify FERC staff once the project facilities are mechanically complete and capable of flowing gas."

If approved, Columbia Gas will be able to provide additional firm contracted service to THQ Marketing as an anchor shipper on Mountaineer XPress, the request states. Columbia Gas is seeking approval by February 12.

The project is designed to transport growing production from the Marcellus and Utica shale plays to Columbia's TCO Pool and farther south to pooling points on Columbia Gulf Transmission. Along with Columbia Gulf's 860 MMcf/d Gulf XPress project, the expansion is projected to provide incremental capacity between the US Northeast and the Gulf Coast.

The company previously hoped to have the Mountaineer XPress in full service in late 2018. But it has faced some challenges, in part due to trouble with erosion controls and land slips that added to the need for restoration.

In its latest in-service request for Mountaineer XPress, the operator said "rehabilitation and restoration of the right-of-way and other areas affected by the project facilities described herein are proceeding satisfactorily." It added that Columbia is conducting a site inspection with FERC staff and its third-party compliance monitor this week and, if necessary, will file supplemental information on the status of rehabilitation and restoration of the sites for the facilities covered in the latest request.

On its Columbia Gas system, TransCanada started up in the fall its 1.3 Bcf/d WB XPress pipeline, which is aimed at expanding WB mainline capacity and, among other things, will help feed Appalachian Basin production to Dominion Energy 's Cove Point LNG export terminal in Maryland.

-- Harry Weber, Harry.Weber@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Gail Roberts, newsdesk@spglobal.com