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Pipeline Blasts Spark Scrambling But Local Impact May Be Less Than Originally Feared

Major users of natural gas in the Inland Northwest are scrambling a bit, but getting by, in the aftermath of two pipeline explosions in Western Washington.

As a result of the blasts at Everson and Kalama, the Northwest Pipeline Co. shut down its 26-inch line late Wednesday.

Land movement along the pipeline’s right of way is the suspected cause of breaks that triggered the explosions. Inspections for other possible threats are expected to take two days, according to Northwest spokeswoman Susan Flaim.

A parallel 30-inch pipeline remains in operation.

Washington Water Power Co., Kaiser Aluminum Corp. and as many as 30 other companies take delivery of some of their gas from Northwest.

But most of that gas comes from parts of the Northwest system that were unaffected by the shutdown, spokesmen for the company and some of its customers said.

Scot Allen, a vice president for Pan Energy in Salt Lake City, said the break on the west side underscores an advantage enjoyed by Spokane - a second pipeline owned by Pacific Gas Transmission Co. that delivers gas to the area from Canada.

Pan Energy arranges gas supply for several companies in the Northwest. Allen said transportation, despite the broken pipelines, is less an issue than supply.

He said closure of the west side line has restricted access to some Canadian gas, which is cheaper than the U.S. gas some companies are buying as an alternative.

“Spokane is uniquely situated,” Allen said, because the PGT line keeps ready supplies of Canadian gas available.

WWP spokeswoman Dana Anderson said the Spokane utility has offset some of the problems with the Northwest system by shifting demand to PGT.

“It’s really a minimal impact,” she said. “It sounds like it’s just going to be a few days.”

At Kaiser, Energy Supply Manager Joe Hoerner said the company was advised limits would be set on the amount of gas it could take from Northwest without penalty, but the restriction is not curtailing operations.

Northwest spokesman John Nicksich said the limit, called an entitlement, was set at 113 percent of the gas for which customers subscribed.

The entitlement had been as low as 3 percent right after the explosions, he said, but that limit was invoked only in Western Washington.

A 113 percent entitlement is considered a liberal one, Nicksich added.

, DataTimes

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