Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Columbia Gas to begin $2B pipeline upgrade

Business First of Columbus - by Matt Burns Business First
Columbia Gas of Ohio is breaking ground next year on a 25-year, $2 billion improvement project for its underground pipeline network.
The Columbus-based company said the project, which will be in addition to regular construction, will begin in 2008 with plans to invest about $70 million annually starting in 2009. The company is looking to replace about 4,000 miles of steel and cast iron pipe with plastic that's less vulnerable to corrrosion and major damage. Columbia's entire underground network is about 19,000 miles, the equivalent of about 10 miles of pipe for every square mile in the state.
Columbia spokesman Ken Stammen said recruiting is underway for about 100 field operations jobs that will be added by February.
Among many projects planned over the next few decades, one already identified in Columbus is a $5.5 million replacement of 40,000 feet of pipeline in the Atwood Terrace neighborhood, northeast of downtown, set to begin in April, Stammen said. Columbia also is planning to move about 1,600 indoor meters outside.
Program costs will be reviewed by the
Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, and customers won't see any recovery charges on monthly bills until at least May 2009, Stammen said. Customers then might see about 44 cents added to their monthly bills, a charge that could go up to just under $3 a month by 2013, the last year for which the company has made rate projections, Stammen said. Columbia bills range from an average of $25 to $150 throughout the year.
Columbia Gas of Ohio serves 1.4 million customers in 64 of Ohio's 88 counties. The company, the largest natural gas utility in the state, is owned by
NiSource Inc. (NYSE:NI), a network of energy companies that serves 3.8 million customers in nine states.