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NiSource Inc.’s (NI - Analyst Report) business division, NiSource Midstream Services, announced the completion of the natural gas compressor upgrade project at its Majorsville compressor facility in Dallas, W. VA. The modernization entailed substitution of four ageing Ingersoll Rand KVG412 compressors with next generation CAT 3606 engines using Ariel JGC4 compressors.

The Majorsville system is a part of the first gathering and processing infrastructure developed to tap the reserve-rich Marcellus output in southwest Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia. The network involves delivery of Marcellus gas by the Majorsville station from Washington County, Pa. and from Marshall County, W. VA to the MarkWest Liberty Majorsville processing plant where residual gas is then transported to Columbia Gas and Texas Eastern interstate pipeline systems.    

The replacement of the new compressors has increased the facility’s capacity by 1800 horsepower thereby boosting service reliability as well as increasing throughput volumes by 70–80 million cubic feet per day, double the previous level.

During the project, NiSource ensured that its customers do not suffer optimizing its existing midstream assets to gather and deliver 250,000 dekatherms per day of Marcellus gas production.

NiSource has lately focused on the expansion of its midstream portfolio. This comprises the Millennium Pipeline project in Columbia where the company placed the $45 million Minisink Compressor station into service in the second quarter. Progress on the West and East side expansion projects is also on track.

With the shale boom in the U.S, midstream infrastructure needs have risen immensely. The pipeline systems currently in place are ill-equipped to service the gas production explosion. NiSource’s investments in pipeline assets look well timed and will enable the company to capitalize on the positive market dynamics.

More good news awaits NiSource as natural gas demand in North America is expected to climb 37% by 2035 supported by the anticipated 66% rise in dry gas production.

However, unplanned outages are a recurring risk the company needs to watch out for. NiSource had a nasty pipeline accident in late 2012 and is presently facing several lawsuits which might dent its pocket.

NiSource at the moment has a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Other utility operators better placed are Zacks Ranked #2 (Buy) PNM Resources Inc. (PNM - Snapshot Report), UNS Energy Corp. and Alliant Energy Corp. (LNT - Snapshot Report).

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