Another big pipe out of Alaska?

It seems Alaskans are pretty serious about getting a natural gas pipeline built out of the North Slope: this week alone there are 16 hearings on aspects of the project being held in the Alaskan House of Representatives and seven hearings in the Alaskan Senate, according to Drue Pearce, the recently-named federal coordinator for Alaskan Natural Gas Pipeline Projects.
Pearce, a former Alaska legislator herself, told attendees of Pipeline & Gas Journal’s Pipeline Opportunities Conference on Monday, that despite the apparent chaos the state appears determined to issue a request for proposals and hold an open-season for a natural gas pipeline by this July.
“Then we’ll see if the companies are really interested in the project,” Pearce said.
A pipeline to carry Alaskan natural gas to the lower 48 has been in the discussion stages for some 30 years, so many tend to be skeptical whenever talk of the project moving forward comes around. But in 2004 the U.S. Congress passed the Alaskan Natural Gas Pipeline Act, which created Pearce’s position and some $18 billion in loan guarentees for construction of the project.
The ball is now in Alaska’s court to get the project moving, but Pearce hopes the rest of the country doesn’t just look at it as an Alaska project.
“Collectively the country needs to understand the importance of this gas,” Pearce said.
The U.S. Geological Survey has said there’s some 200 trillion cubic feet of gas in Alaska, which the pipeline could help bring to market. Some of that is in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but much of it is in other, less controversial areas, such as the National Petroleum Reserve.
The state of Alaska has a web site dedicated to the pipeline here.