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Analysis: Milestones point to imminent startup of Sur de Texas natural gas pipeline

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Startup could come as early as April 14

Overall pipeline construction at over 95% complete

Sistrangas interconnect at Monte Grande complete

Houston — The Sur de Texas-Tuxpan marine pipeline could be just days away from entering service, promising a quick ramp in US gas exports and a long-awaited boost in supply to central and southern Mexico, data recently released by the country's Secretary of Energy, Sener, showed.

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The 2.6 Bcf/d export pipeline is now over 95% complete and could enter service as early as April 14, according to Sener's most recent construction status report.

The underwater portion of the pipeline is complete, has been packed with gas, and is now awaiting onshore interconnections at Altamira, Emmanuel Silva, deputy technical director at Mexico's gas control operator, Cenagas, said at a recent Mexico City forum the agency hosted.

In a separate development, an interconnection at the pipeline's terminus to Mexico's Sistrangas national grid, has now also been completed, according to a separate report released by Sener late last week.

The key Monte Grande interconnect ensures downstream access to local and regional demand around Tuxpan, offering an immediate market for gas imported on the marine pipeline.

IMPACT

The Sur de Texas-Tuxpan pipeline has offered the potential to help solve an ongoing gas shortage in southern Mexico by delivering new supply to Mexico City and its surrounding industries.

While only a small volume of the imported molecules are expected to reach southern Mexico, the pipe should help to leave more of southern Mexico's own production within its boundaries.

According to S&P Global Platts Analytics, initial flows on the Sur de Texas pipeline could be between 1 Bcf/d and 1.5 Bcf/d.

Imported gas supply is expected to access at least four sources of demand including the displacement of LNG import volumes at Altamira, local and regional consumption around Tuxpan, spare capacity on Tamanzuchale Pipeline and demand downstream from the Cempoala compressor station.

At Altamira, Sur de Texas supply could displace LNG imports of about 400 MMcf/d to 500 MMcf/d.

At Tuxpan, an interconnection to the Sistrangas pipeline grid at Monte Grande will access to another 500 MMcf/d of local and regional demand around Tuxpan.

A separate interconnection at Naranjos to TransCanada's Tamazunchale Pipeline will allow additional volumes to flow west and south to the interior states of Hidalgo and Queretaro.

Tamazunchale's two segments could provide about 200 MMcf/d to 300 MMcf/d of spare capacity, with some potential upside to those volumes depending on the exact size of the interconnect.

Downstream from the Monte Grande interconnect, a recently completed phase-I reconfiguration of the Cempoala compressor station, should provide immediate access to at least 350 MMcf/d in additional demand from central and southern Mexico.

According to Platts Analytics, a phase-II reconfiguration of the compressor station, expected by July, could boost that number to 1.4 Bcf/d. But in a surprising revelation by Cenagas to S&P Global Platts last week, Phase II of the compression upgrade has reputedly been completed, indicating potential high side to southbound flows through Cempoala

HYDROSTATIC TESTING

As TransCanada prepares to start service on its Sur de Texas pipeline, construction debris and noise from hydrostatic testing have created some unrest among coastal fishing communities, according to local media reports.

In late March, fisherman near Tamiahua, a village just north of Tuxpan, briefly created a blockade around the pipeline, which was later dispersed by the town's Mayor, according to an online article posted by La Opinion de Poza Rica.

In Mexico, land-use issues have been to blame for numerous setbacks to pipeline development, construction and startup. In some cases, developers have halted construction entirely.

In November, TransCanada expressed publicly its concerns over "social and legal uncertainties" related to construction of its Tuxpan-Tula and Tula-Villa de Reyes pipelines, opting to halt indefinitely its construction on both projects.

-- J. Robinson, jrobinson@spglobal.com; Daniel Rodriguez, daniel.rodriguez@spglobal.com; John Hilfiker, jhilfiker@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Valarie Jackson, newsdesk@spglobal.com