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U.S. natural gas production dips after pipeline fire in Ohio

(Reuters) - U.S. natural gas production was expected to decline by about 2 percent on Thursday from earlier in the week due in part to an unexpected shutdown of a couple of pipelines in Ohio after a fire early Wednesday, according to Reuters data.

The fire and gas release occurred on Tallgrass Energy Partners LP's Seneca Lateral pipe in Noble County in southeast Ohio. There were no injuries or evacuations.

The damaged Seneca Lateral, part of Tallgrass' Rockies Express (REX) pipeline, feeds gas from Utica shale producers onto the REX pipe after processing at the MarkWest Seneca facility.

In addition to Tallgrass' Seneca Lateral, the incident also affected the flow of gas to the Rover pipeline, which has its own, separate Seneca Lateral. The REX Seneca Lateral and the Rover Seneca Lateral are different pipes.

In a notice to customers on Wednesday, REX did not say when it would complete repairs on its Seneca Lateral but noted it was mobilizing crews.

Officials at Energy Transfer Partners LP, which owns Rover, said the pipe was operating safely.

Thomson Reuters projected output in the lower 48 U.S. states would fall to 75.9 bcfd on Thursday from a recent high of 77.3 bcfd on Tuesday. One bcfd is enough gas to fuel about 5 million homes.

Flows of gas from Seneca to Rover fell to zero on Thursday from an average of about 0.3 bcfd over the past couple of weeks. That cut the amount of fuel moving on the Rover pipe to about 0.8 bcfd, down from an average of about 1.1 bcfd over the past couple of weeks, the Reuters data showed.

Flows on the REX pipeline were not hindered much by the incident because there had not been any gas flows at the MarkWest Seneca-Noble point over the past couple of weeks, according to Reuters data.

Prior to this incident, U.S. gas production had mostly been rising as the weather warmed following the brutally cold start of the year when some production wells froze in several states.

Output fell to as low as 71.1 bcfd on Jan. 1 as frozen wells cut the amount of gas that drillers could pull out of the ground by as much as 8 percent from a record of 77.6 bcfd on Dec. 18.

MPLX LP's MarkWest Energy unit owns the MarkWest Seneca processing plant in Ohio.

(Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by David Gregorio)

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