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Natural gas flowing farther

Donna Gray
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. ” What will be the nation’s largest natural gas pipeline, linking the Piceance Basin north of Rifle, with the Midwest, took a step closer to completion last week.

A second segment of the 1,663-mile, $4.4 billion Rockies Express (REX) pipeline went online last week, from Wamsutter, Wyo. to Cheyenne, Wyo.

The first leg, from the Meeker hub in Rio Blanco County, Colo. to Wamsutter, was completed last year. Its terminus will be the Clarington hub in eastern Ohio.

A joint venture of Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, Sempra Pipelines and Storage and ConocoPhillips, the pipeline will carry 2 billion cubic feet of gas per day and is expected to be completed in 2009.

The pipeline will mean a significant increase in the ability of producers to get their product out of the basin, which is one of the fastest growing areas of gas development in the nation but has been historically constrained by a lack of pipeline capacity.

“Currently more than 300,000 dekatherms per day of natural gas is flowing out of the Piceance Basin in REX,” said Emily Mir Thompson, spokeswoman for Kinder Morgan.

Capacity for the 328-mile segment from Meeker to Cheyenne is 500,000 dth/day.

In November 2005, EnCana signed an agreement with Kinder Morgan and Sempra to ship 500 million cubic feet of gas per day in the pipeline.

Also key to the success of the pipeline venture was the purchase of Entrega Gas Pipeline Inc., a subsidiary of EnCana, which was in the process of laying 132 miles of 36-inch pipe from Meeker to Wamsutter, the first part of a 330-mile line to Cheyenne. That link was subsumed into REX.

The Entrega purchase extended the reach of REX from Wyoming into Colorado.

In June 2006, ConocoPhillips announced acquisition of a 24 percent interest in the Rockies Express.

“We believe this project is a strategic addition to our natural gas business and will provide ConocoPhillips and others a long-term outlet for delivering Rocky Mountain production to the upper Midwest and eastern United States,” said Randy L. Limbacher, ConocoPhillips executive vice president for exploration and production, in a prepared statement.

ConocoPhillips greatly expanded its presence in the Piceance when it bought Burlington Resources in March of last year, said ConocoPhillips spokesman Charlie Rowton.

REX West, 713 miles of 42-inch pipeline from Weld County to Audrain County, Mo., is set to be completed and online in December. The final leg, 622 miles from eastern Missouri to the Clarington Hub, “is expected to be in interim service as early as Jan. 1, 2009, and fully completed by June 2009” subject to regulatory approvals, Thompson said.


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