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Questar shoring up plans for salt-cavern gas storage

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EVANSTON, Wyo. — Salt Lake-based Questar Pipeline Co. is shoring up permits and customer contracts for a salt cavern storage facility that would hold up to 12.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas.

The five separate caverns would store the equivalent of about 9 percent of all natural gas produced annually in Wyoming.

Mike Molenaar, Questar project manager, said the company has received a favorable response from potential customers. Some have signed contracts, he said.

The project involves drilling five separate injection wells 3,000 feet down. Each well would leach salts naturally contained in the formation, creating a cavern that is then filled with water and natural gas.

The salts serve as a host for the gas and as a sealant in the formation. Each cavern has a working capacity of 2.5 billion cubic feet.

A dehydration and compression system would be constructed on the surface to serve the caverns.

Total cost of the project is estimated between $100 million and $150 million.

Molenaar discussed the planned storage site with members of the Wyoming Energy Commission earlier this month.

Gov. Jim Geringer and commission members said the project is a possible tool in strengthening Wyoming's energy industry.

Geringer said Wyoming's coal-bed methane industry, which shot to 763 million cubic feet per day in 2001, is particularly vulnerable to market prices because the wells cannot be shut in easily without incurring extra costs.

Tom Price, director of El Paso Corp.'s Marketing Western Pipeline Division, said there is a need for more storage in the Rocky Mountains.

"(The Rocky Mountain Region) has more productive capability than export capability," Price said.