July 16, 2018 / 5:42 PM / 2 months ago

TransCanada's blast-damaged Leach natgas pipe returns to service

(Reuters) - TransCanada Corp’s Columbia Gas Transmission said the section of its Leach Xpress natural gas pipeline damaged in a blast in West Virginia in early June returned to service on July 15, boosting gas output in the Appalachian region.

Production in the region was expected to rise to 28.7 billion cubic feet per day on Monday from 28.1 bcfd on Friday, according to Thomson Reuters data. Before the June 7 blast, output in the region was about 27.5 bcfd.

One billion cubic feet of gas can fuel about 5 million U.S. homes for a day.

The Leach shutdown forced producers using the lineto find other pipes to ship gas out of the Marcellus and Utica shale regions of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio.

But traders noted that overall output was little changed after the blast as producers, such as Range Resources Corp and Southwestern Energy Co, found other pipes to ship their gas.

Alternative pipelines include Dominion Energy Inc’s transmission system, Energy Transfer Partners LP’s Rover, Tallgrass Energy LP’s Rockies Express, Enbridge Inc’s Texas Eastern Transmission and Kinder Morgan Inc’s Tennessee Gas, according to analysts at S&P Global Platts.

The 1.5-bcfd Leach pipeline in West Virginia and Ohio, whichentered full service at the start of 2018, transportsMarcellus and Utica shale gas to consumers in the U.S. Midwestand Gulf Coast.

Last week, Columbia said it expected to return the damaged section of pipe on July 15 after gaining approval from the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).

PHMSA gave Columbia 30 days to respond to a list of corrective actions the agency proposed to improve the safety of the Leach pipe.

Those actions included mechanical and metallurgical testing and enhanced surveillance and monitoring, according to the federal report, made available on Thursday.

Since the blast, Columbia has identified six other points along the pipeline that PHMSA said are “areas of concern” based on soil conditions and steep slopes or indications of slips.

PHMSA said in its report that the cause of the blast has not been identified but that preliminary investigation suggests the failure was the result of ground movement that caused stress on a weld.

Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Steve Orlofsky

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