US pipeline operator Kinder Morgan Energy Partners has initiated work to expand its Texas intrastate natural gas pipeline system into West Texas by converting 254 miles of a previously acquired 24-inch diameter crude oil pipeline to natural gas service.

The $40 million project is in addition to and will complement the conversion of a 130-mile segment of the same crude oil pipeline between Katy, Texas, and Austin, Texas, that began natural gas service in July of 2004.

This portion of the conversion will access a number of natural gas processing plants in West Texas and provide transportation service from McCamey to just west of rapidly growing Austin. Approximately 95% of the 150 million cubic feet per day (MMcf/d) of new capacity being created by the conversion project is already under contract to buyers.

The conversion project will provide Austin and other key central Texas markets with access to additional, attractively priced supplies of natural gas to help them meet the area’s growing demand, said Tom Martin, president of Kinder Morgan’s Texas Intrastate Pipeline Group.