Transporter Plans to Boost Natural Gas Supply; Southern Natural Gas Is Taking Steps to Offset the Gulf Coast Losses

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Byline: VICKY ECKENRODE

ATLANTA -- Despite continued tight supplies of natural gas from the Gulf of Mexico, there should be enough to heat Georgia homes and run factories this winter once operators of an importing terminal near Savannah make a $1.5 million upgrade to their pipeline system.

Southern Natural Gas, the major transporter of natural gas into Georgia, plans to install a temporary compressor on its line in Screven County that will increase the amount of imported gas coming from its Elba Island facility by 20 percent to 25 percent, officials said Monday.

The upgrade should be functioning by mid-December, SNG officials said.

The investment will help the company offset reductions coming from the Gulf Coast and maintain supplies to customers, such as industrial plants, electric companies and Atlanta Gas Light, which distributes the natural gas that homeowners across the state use.

SNG now moves out between 400 million and 500 million cubic feet of gas a day from its liquefied natural gas terminal at Elba Island, 5 miles downstream from Savannah. It is one of four liquefied natural gas terminals operating in the country.

An estimated 75 percent of the gas sent from Elba Island in October was bought by markets in Georgia, said Chris Bradberry, manager of pipeline planning for SNG.

The imported fuel is shipped in from Caribbean countries such as Trinidad in a highly condensed liquid form to Elba Island, where it is converted back to gas and piped out.

State lawmakers hailed SNG's announcement Monday as an example of the private market finding solutions to the energy disruptions caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita along the Gulf Coast.

"Georgians will have uninterrupted gas supplies this winter," said House Speaker Pro Tempore Mark Burkhalter, R-Alpharetta.

"The additional good news is that while the prices may not be what everybody wants them to be, we have a pro-active, private sector community working to solve this problem," he said.

Burkhalter said Georgia is fortunate to be one of the few states to house an LNG terminal because it provides an alternative source of natural gas in light of the problems with the Gulf Coast supplies. …