Epic Questions

SPECULATION has increased on Dampier to Bunbury natural gas pipeline owner Epic Energy’s ability to keep trading.

Still in dispute with the regulator over pricing, heavily in debt, unable to expand and with a financially troubled parent company, Epic has claimed one possible scenario is that the directors could place the company into voluntary administration.

Although some groups label this talk as company negotiating and shareholder bargaining ploys, trading difficulties could pose serious implications for custom through the State’s major gas pipeline.

A spokesman for Energy Minister Eric Ripper said the Government was monitoring the situation very closely, but not making any assumptions.

The Government was keeping the public interest in mind, he said.

Access arrangements for the pipeline are unlikely to be affected, however.

These relate to the line itself, and not the owner.

Hence any change in company administration or ownership is not expected to produce any major tariff implications.

Norgard Clohessy managing partner Bryan Hughes rebutted talk that administrators would not like to take on a business such as Epic’s.

“These days, they would only be concerned were there environmental issues attached to the business,” he said.

Another administrator said opportunities like this could be profitable and it was possible companies “would be after it like rats down a drain”.

AlintaGas is another entity expected to be interested in any opportunity the situation could throw up.

The former State gas utility is rumoured to be interested in one shareholder’s stake in the Dampier to Bunbury line.

AlintaGas this month confirmed it continually reviews energy infrastructure growth opportunities, with “gas transmission lines and distribution networks right in the target zone”.

But a spokesperson refused to comment on “speculation regarding corporate opportunities”.

“At this stage no potential pipeline opportunity has reached a stage of commitment where we feel that a public announcement is required,” he said.

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