Monday, June 9, 2008

BP & Conoco Still Pursue Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline

Continuing the public relations push to convince people their gas pipeline project is better, representatives from oil giants BP and ConocoPhillips were in town last week, just eight days after a governor's representative was here stumping for the TransCanada line.

A week ago, Bruce Anders told about 75 civic and business leaders in Soldotna that TransCanada's natural gas pipeline proposal is the only one that meets the requirements of Gov. Sarah Palin's Alaska Gas Inducement Act (AGIA) and is the one most likely to be approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

On Wednesday, a BP manager and a ConocoPhillips analyst told members of the Kenai Chamber of Commerce the producers' project is best because of the oil companies' pipeline experience, their market capitalization ability and their solid technical capabilities.

Vlad Morakhovsky, Alaska North Slope gas commercial analyst for ConocoPhillips, said the partners in the Denali-The Alaska Gas Pipeline project anticipate construction of their 48-inch line from natural gas fields on the North Slope to Calgary, Alberta, Canada, to take three years, bringing the first gas to the market "in about 10 years."

"We have people in the field right now," said Bob Hawley, gas projects and operations manager for BP Exploration-Alaska.

Hawley said workers are doing engineering studies and soon the jointly owned limited liability corporation will open its new headquarters in Anchorage.

The company plans to conduct its open season -- a time for accepting firm transportation commitments to ship gas or pay to ship gas -- by 2010.

The corporation plans to spend $600 million over the next 36 months preparing for open season, Hawley said.

Although the initial plan is to build the gas pipeline to Alberta, the Canadian natural gas market is not sufficient enough to support the project, he said. So, if needed, the pipeline will continue on to Chicago to serve markets in the Midwest.

The project will have a gas treatment plant on the North Slope to remove carbon dioxide and other impurities, and gas will be compressed to 2,500 pounds-per-square inch.

Hawley said the gas will be chilled to below freezing so as not to melt Alaska's permafrost. The pipeline will be buried three feet deep, except where it crosses geologic faults and rivers.

According to Morakhovsky, infrastructure improvements that will be needed along the route of the pipeline include upgrading all highways and bridges, as well as upgrading ports. The improvements, he said, would happen in the next five years.

"Our main goal is to have as many Alaskans involved as possible," Morakhovsky said. "To this point, ConocoPhillips has been sponsoring a number of training programs ... and will continue."

He said Denali planners want to complete their field studies in order to determine the tariff -- the cost to transport gas in the pipeline.

TransCanada has published an anticipated tariff of $4.73 per million Btu of gas.

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