BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — Leaders in the pilot union at Northwest Airlines Corp. approved a tentative joint contract Friday with Delta Air Lines Inc. to take effect after the two airlines combine.

The next step is a vote by rank-and-file pilots at both airlines.

The Northwest branch of the Air Line Pilots Association says its Master Executive Council voted unanimously to send the proposed contract to pilots for a vote.

They still need to work out a merged seniority list, and that can be the toughest part of combining two pilot groups. They have agreed on a process for doing the seniority list, and negotiations are expected to start later this summer.

The airlines are aiming to close Delta's acquisition of Northwest by the end of the year.

Ute Energy, Anadarko form company for gas-delivery hub

Ute Energy LLC and Anadarko Petroleum Corp. said Friday that they have formed a company to operate a gas processing and delivery hub for the Greater Natural Buttes area of Utah's Uinta Basin.

The new company, Chipeta Processing LLC, owns an existing refrigeration-processing facility and is building a second cryogenic-processing facility that is scheduled for completion in the first quarter of 2009, Ute Energy said in a news release.

Ute Energy is an investment of Quantum Energy Partners, Quantum Resources Management and the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah-Ouray Indian Reservation. Anadarko, based in The Woodlands, Texas, is one of the world's largest oil and natural-gas exploration and production companies.

The processing and delivery hub will serve Anadarko's and the Ute Tribe's gas reserves in the Uinta Basin. Chipeta also plans to pursue third-party service opportunities with other Uinta Basin producers.