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Kinder expects part of El Paso natgas pipe to be down for months

U.S. energy company Kinder Morgan Inc expects part of its El Paso natural gas pipeline to remain out of service for "several months" following a blast in Arizona that killed two people in August. 

The company told customers on Tuesday that activities were underway to return a portion of the blast-damaged El Paso Line 2000 for limited operation at reduced operating pressure for the sole purpose of conducting an inspection on the line, including recently installed pipe. 

Kinder said the incident remained under U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation. 

The rupture on El Paso's 30-inch (76-centimeter) Line 2000 forced the company to reduce pressure on the pipeline, limiting gas flows to California at a time when the state was using more of the fuel to generate power. 

California is suffering from a severe drought that has cut power supplies from hydropower facilities and wildfires that reduced power imports from other regions, forcing the state to rely more on gas-fired generation this year. 

Gas prices in Southern California, which were already inflated before the explosion due to the drought and wildfires, have averaged $6.64 per MM British thermal units (mmBtu) since Aug. 15. That compares with an average of $4.01 during the same period in 2020 and a five-year average (2016-2020) of $3.85. 

Flows from Arizona to California on the El Paso pipeline at Ehrenberg, Arizona, have declined to 0.65 Bft3d since the Aug. 15 explosion from over 0.8 Bft3d during the prior 30 days. 

One Bft3 is enough gas for about 5 MM U.S. homes for a day. 

The NTSB said the damaged pipe was installed in 1985 and previously transported crude oil. It was converted to gas service about 20 years ago and was acquired by Kinder Morgan in 2012. 

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