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Pipeline projects top $138 million

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - NiSource's Columbia Gas Transmission pipeline modernization plan includes more than $138 million in projects across West Virginia.

Jimmy Staton, executive vice president and group chief executive officer of NiSource Gas Transmission and Storage, said at Sen. Jay Rockefeller's Senate Commerce Committee's field hearing on Monday that system improvements include:

* $38 million in upgrades to numerous older transmission pipelines in the company's so-called WB Pipeline system. The upgrades will accommodate in-line inspection equipment known as "smart pigs." The project involves 26-inch and 36-inch pipelines that run across central West Virginia, delivering natural gas to eastern markets.

"Upgrading this system to accommodate today's latest safety technology will not only allow for enhanced integrity assessment, but it will also greatly improve the efficiency and reliability of the pipeline," Staton said.

* $100 million to upgrade compressor stations near Frametown, Seneca Rocks and Mathias.

Company spokeswoman Chevalier Mayes said the upgrades will involve replacing aging turbine and reciprocating engines.

Staton said, "Work at the stations will improve compressor horsepower, dramatically improve emissions performance, and result in a significant reduction in fuel consumption."

According to a NiSource filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, "Each of these facilities has antiquated horsepower that is not considered fuel efficient and may not comply with emerging air emissions requirements."

NiSource is the corporate parent of Columbia Gas Transmission Corp. The company received federal approval last week for its plan to invest $300 million a year over each of the next five years to upgrade its pipeline system.

Staton said on Monday, "In total, over the first six years of our modernization program, Columbia will invest close to three-quarters of a billion dollars in safety and reliability related improvement projects in West Virginia alone.

"A recent economic analysis of our program estimates that modernization will result in more than $1.1 billion in economic output in the state, including the creation or support of approximately 1,700 total jobs at the peak of our program in 2016 ranging from engineering to construction services," he said.

NiSource spokesman Karl Brack has pointed out that regardless of where the projects take place, much of the engineering, planning, purchasing and project management work will occur at the company's offices in Charleston.

NiSource has about 590 employees in West Virginia. Many work out of the Columbia Gas office tower at 1700 MacCorkle Ave. S.E., next to Frontier Communications' regional headquarters.

Staton said, "In addition to private economic activity, our modernization investment is anticipated to generate approximately $80 million in new revenue for the state of West Virginia and its units of local government. Most importantly, our work in the state will make our systems safer and more reliable."

Columbia's plan was formulated long before last month's rupture of a 20-inch gas transmission line near Sissonville. The rupture triggered a massive fire that destroyed four homes and charred a section of Interstate 77. No one was seriously injured.

Staton discussed the company's plan on Monday during Rockefeller's field hearing on pipeline safety.

Contact writer George Hohmann at or 304-348-4836.



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