Marathon Oil Corporation has announced the beginning of a series of “Open Season” industry meetings for the company's previously announced North Sea natural gas pipeline project, which has been named Symphony. Announced in February, the Symphony Natural Gas Pipeline Project will be designed to transport additional supplies of natural gas from the UK and Norwegian North Sea to the Bacton Terminal in southern England. During the Open Season, Marathon will meet with prospective UK and Norwegian gas owners and operators to provide a review of initial plans for Symphony, as well as solicit their input on the types of services they would be seeking. Gas owners, marketers and operators also will be invited to provide expressions of interest and contract for capacity on the Symphony Pipeline Project during the Open Season period, which will run until October 15, 2002. Commenting on the Symphony Pipeline Open Season, William H. Hastings, Marathon International Petroleum (GB) Chairman and Managing Director, said, "The Symphony Natural Gas Pipeline Project represents a new, innovative approach to transporting the abundant gas resources from the North Sea to the UK market. Unlike most other pipelines servicing this important market, the Symphony Pipeline Project will be an open access contract carrier with a wide array of flexible, value-added services providing gas producers and traders with a means to move their gas production to the growing UK market." Access to additional North Sea gas supplies will be crucial to help meet growing UK demand for this clean, premium fuel, which according to various estimates will outstrip supply by some 83 billion cubic meters per year (eight billion cubic feet per day) by 2010. The proposed 675-kilometer Symphony dry natural gas pipeline would run from the Brae/Miller complex in UK North Sea to the Bacton Terminal area in Suffolk, northeast of London. The Symphony Pipeline would be augmented by a 125-kilometer Symphony Link natural gas pipeline between the Heimdal complex in the Norwegian North Sea sector and the Brae/Miller complex. This routing takes Symphony adjacent to Britannia and numerous storage facilities further south, providing potential connections for some of the largest natural gas facilities in the North Sea to the largest market in the UK. The Brae and Heimdal facilities have significant compression and processing capacity, and their close proximity to the Norwegian - UK border would help gather new gas supplies and could in time act as price reference points. The Symphony Pipeline would allow gas to be aggregated from numerous UK and Norwegian North Sea producers for transportation to Bacton at a design capacity of some 10 billion cubic meters per year, which equates to an average of approximately 28 million cubic meters per day (one billion cubic feet per day). The development of additional cross border transportation infrastructure between Norway and the UK is high on the agenda of industry and government in both countries, and the Symphony Pipeline Project is viewed as a potential key element in future developments. Centrica plc, the leading natural gas marketer in the UK energy market, supplying more than 13.5 million gas customers under the British Gas brand, has agreed to support the project as a potential purchaser of gas transported by the pipeline. In addition, the UK's Gas & Electricity Markets Authority (Ofgem) has also welcomed the project as a market response to the investment signals provided by Transco's entry capacity auctions. Marathon estimates the pipeline could begin operations in 2005, assuming timely regulatory approval by applicable UK, Norwegian and European regulatory officials, satisfactory supply commitments and financing arrangements, as well as final engineering design. Hastings noted that the Symphony Natural Gas Pipeline is an example of how Marathon is pursuing an integrated gas strategy and creating value through innovative energy solutions and unique partnerships. "The Symphony Pipeline Project is an excellent example of how Marathon is assessing market opportunities, determining how our company can apply its skills and resources, and then assembling the strategic partnerships necessary to capture and optimize the value of this opportunity."