Williams Partners plans $300M pipeline expansion for gas export facility

HOUSTON – Williams Partners is planning a $300 million pipeline expansion to carry natural gas to Cheniere Energy’s planned liquefied natural gas export facilities at the Sabine Pass in Louisiana, the company said Friday.

It’s a move to connect abundant supplies of domestic shale gas in the northeastern U.S. with international markets through the nation’s first LNG export facilities, the Oklahoma-based pipeline operator said. Booming U.S. shale-gas production has in recent years prompted companies like Cheniere and Exxon Mobil to plan facilities to send Gulf Coast supplies abroad to eager buyers in China, India and elsewhere.

The development project for Williams Partners’ massive Transco pipeline could carry 1.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas to Cheniere’s natural gas cooling stations on the Gulf Coast, where Cheniere plans to launch LNG tankers to foreign buyers after its facilities are fully constructed late next year.

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The project involves making a 200-mile section of existing pipeline running southwest in Louisiana toward the Sabine Pass bi-directional. The company also plans to build a new 8-mile lateral pipeline and two compressor stations on the way to the LNG facilities.

The pipeline expansion, expected to start up in 2017, would add “a very large, long-term market commitment in an area of Transco’s system that is seeing decreased utilization due to changing gas supply patters in the United States,” Rory Miller, William Partner’s senior vice president of Atlantic-Gulf operating area, in a written statement.

Williams Partners said it made a deal that would make Cheniere’s subsidiary Sabine Pass Liquefaction LC the anchor shipper for the pipeline project, but it is also holding a binding open season through May to gauge demand levels from other potential customers. The project must be approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The Transco pipeline runs 1,800 miles between South Texas and New York, and sends gas through a pipe network across 10,200 miles all told. Williams Partners anticipates its Gulf Coast expansion and several other development projects will boost the capacity of its Transco lines to 3.4 billion cubic feet per day.

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