General interest news briefs, May 19

The US Department of Energy has opened the Strategic Center for Natural Gas at its Morgantown, W.Va., and Pittsburgh, Pa., fossil fuel research facilities. Energy Sec. Bill Richardson designated the two facilities the National Energy Technology Laboratory last Dec. 10. The gas center will oversee federal research efforts in gas exploration, production, and storage; infrastructure reliability; and advanced gas use technologies, such as high-performance turbines, engines, and fuel cells. It also will conduct studies that could be the basis for future federal natural gas initiatives. Joseph Strakey was named director of the gas center. It has a staff of 13 and will have access to about 50 staff members working on gas projects in other sections of the laboratory. The center's web site can be accessed at

Enron Energy Services has selected Kawasaki Motors Corp. USA to supply three 1.5 Mw MIA-13X gas turbines for a distributed generation project in the Northeast US. The engines will be equipped with Catalytica Combustion Systems Inc.'s Xonon cool combustion technology, which has demonstrated nitrogen oxide emissions of less than 2.5 ppm, eliminating the need for exhaust gas cleanup systems. The project is expected to go into service in late 2001.

At R&B Falcon Corp.'s annual meeting in Houston May 17, an angry stockholder brandished a false hand grenade. R&B Falcon said Director Charles Donabedian took control of the dud grenade. Press reports identified the man as a former employee, Andre Piazza, and said the man would be charged with making a terroristic threat.

Williams, Tulsa, reported the 170-Mw gas-fired power generation plant it is constructing in Worthington, Ind., will support a full requirements agreement with Hoosier Energy, Bloomington, Ind. Under the agreement, Williams's energy marketing and trading unit will supply and manage Hoosier Energy's electricity requirements through 2002, subject to a potential 1-year extension by Williams. At the end of the contract term, Hoosier Energy will have the option to buy the Worthington plant from Williams for an undisclosed amount. Financial terms were not disclosed. Hoosier is a generation and transmission cooperative providing wholesale electric power and services to 16 member distribution cooperatives in 48 central and southern Indiana counties.

Petro-Canada's $175 million (Can.) oilsands plant project north of Fort McMurray, Alta., will hurt the environment, a regulatory hearing has been told. The Oil Sands Environmental Coalition told an Alberta Energy and Utilities Board hearing that the planned 22,000 b/d plant could have a negative impact on the boreal forest. Spokesman Gail MaCrimmon told the board that the Petro-Canada venture needs special attention because it is an in situ project, rather than a mining operation. She said many in situ projects are on the horizon, and the big environmental picture is important, particularly for survival of the boreal forest in the area. MaCrimmon said Alberta should be moving away from fossil fuels instead of spending large amounts of capital to develop them.

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