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Natural Gas Pipeline Panel Backs 2 Sources

Times Staff Writer

California would save nearly $21 billion in energy costs over the next 45 years by tapping into the natural gas reserves of Alberta, Canada, and Wyoming, the California Energy Commission said Monday.

In a report that becomes part of a hot debate over California’s long-term natural gas supplies, the commission endorsed the construction of pipelines to bring gas from both regions and lessen California’s dependence on the natural gas fields of the southwestern United States.

The report, which is only a recommendation, implicitly rejects some pending pipeline proposals and embraces others. It employed a widely used computer model of regional natural gas markets to decide which pipeline combinations would be best for the state.

At least half a dozen commercial ventures to ship natural gas into California’s oil fields in Kern County are on the drawing boards. Three recent natural gas shortages in Southern California appear to have eliminated opposition to increasing pipeline capacity into the state.

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The report used a dozen possible configurations of pipelines into California from gas fields in British Columbia, Alberta, Wyoming, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. The Alberta and Wyoming connections were lopsided winners.

Compared to doing nothing to expand the current out-of-state supplies of natural gas, new pipelines to both Alberta and Wyoming would be some $20.9 billion cheaper over the next 4 1/2 decades, the study said.

The Wyoming and Alberta routes would favor at least three proposals:

- Coastal Corp. of Houston has proposed a $665-million pipeline from Wyoming to Kern County, and is the first to win a federal permit. It would be built by Wyoming-California Pipeline Co.

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- Tenneco and Williams Cos. proposed a pipeline following about the same route, to be built by Kern River Transmission Co.

- Pacific Gas Transmission Co., a unit of Pacific Gas & Electric, the big San Francisco gas and electric utility, has proposed a $1-billion expansion of a line that would tie into Alberta gas fields.

The report implicitly rejects a pair of proposals favored by Southern California Gas Co. and Mojave Pipeline Co., a joint venture of Enron Corp. and El Paso Natural Gas. Those call for expansion of existing pipelines from the Southwest. It also would reject a plan to bring in British Columbia gas.

Severe cold weather in the Southwest contributed to two recent shortages of gas supplies in the state, prompting California energy planners to favor a geographic diversification of supplies in the future. That favors the Rocky Mountain and Canadian options.

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