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Columbia Pipeline Group, a unit of NiSource, Inc., recently announced its plan to invest $1.75 billion to lay an additional 160 miles of natural gas pipeline throughout West Virginia and Ohio to better utilize the resources in the Utica and Marcellus Shale formations. The additional infrastructure will allow the transport of up to 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from Appalachia to the Midwest and Gulf Coast to markets served by its Columbia Gas Transmission and Columbia Gulf Transmission pipeline systems.

Columbia Pipeline, which has been a part of Ohio and West Virginia natural gas production for more than 100 years, plans to invest the money into two significant projects: Leach Xpress and Rayne Xpress. The Leach Xpress project involves construction of approximately 160 miles of pipeline throughout Ohio, West Virginia and Western Pennsylvania, and will provide much-needed access to several Marcellus and Utica receipt points.

The Rayne Xpress project will enable shippers to efficiently transport Marcellus and Utica production to markets ranging from Appalachia to the U.S. Gulf Coast. This project is primarily concerned with the addition of compression to existing pipeline facilities.

This announcement comes on the heels of a large proposal from Spectra Energy Corp. for four new proposed pipelines to transport natural gas from the Utica and Marcellus shale plays to the Midwest, Southeast, Northeast and Canada. Utica exploration and production are quickly outpacing the current infrastructure as resources from the Utica shale formation are routinely sent to the Gulf Coast for use in manufacturing, among other things.

Columbia Pipeline has a significant footprint in the Marcellus and Utica production areas. According to Glen Kettering, Columbia Pipeline’s chief executive officer, the “newly announced investments reaffirm our commitment to this important region and will increase the capacity and flexibility of the Columbia Transmission and Columbia Gulf systems to further enhance transportation options for producers in Appalachia. In addition, this investment will further support our commitment to economic growth and development by creating new project-related jobs and generating ongoing tax revenue for local communities."

Columbia Pipeline plans to initiate construction on both Leach Xpress and Rayne Xpress in the fall of 2016, with a target service date during the second half of 2017.