Pipeline effort reaches out

Posted: Wednesday, March 15, 2000

Members of a committee promoting Nikiski as the terminus for a North Slope natural gas pipeline say it is time to enlist the support of Anchorage and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

"My belief, and I think the rest of the committee agrees, is that we need to expand to include the entire population along the route of the pipeline -- and that includes Anchorage and the Mat-Su Borough -- because they have at least as much to gain from the pipeline as the Kenai Peninsula," said Kenai Mayor John Williams, a member of the Cook Inlet Pipeline Terminus Group of the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

The city of Valdez and the North Slope and Fairbanks North Star boroughs have formed a port authority to build a gas line to Valdez.

Meanwhile, an industry group including Arco Alaska Inc., BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc., Phillips Petroleum Co., Foothills Pipe Lines Ltd. and Marubeni Corp. is exploring the feasibility of a pipeline to either Valdez or Nikiski. The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly has authorized a committee to promote Nikiski as the terminus and appropriated $100,000 for the effort.

Kenai Borough Mayor Dale Bagley chairs the local committee, which includes Williams, former Borough Mayor Mike Navarre, Soldotna Mayor Ken Lancaster, borough assembly members Bill Popp and Jack Brown, borough Finance Director Jeff Sinz, Jim Elson, acting director of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Economic Development District; and Jim Carter, director of the Cook Inlet Regional Citizens Advisory Council.

Bagley said committee members have made numerous suggestions about how many seats to add and who should fill them. He said he is trying to find some middle ground and will make a proposal to the committee when it meets at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the EDD office on the Kenai Spur Highway north of Kenai. There will be Anchorage and Mat-Su seats, he said.

Williams said the goal is to raise awareness of the people of Southcentral Alaska about the benefits of having the pipeline go through their communities. The pipeline could bring property taxes to the communities it crosses, he said. The availability of North Slope natural gas could bring new industries and create jobs.

The primary goal of a pipeline along either route would be a tidewater plant to produce liquefied natural gas for export to Asia. Members of the industry group say that, for technical reasons, an LNG plant would operate more efficiently if some of the gas could be sold in Alaska.

Bagley said 70 percent of Alaska's population lives along the route to Nikiski. A pipeline along that route could supply homes and businesses in the Mat-Su borough, Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula.

It could assure long-term supplies for Alaska Nitrogen Products in Nikiski and for the LNG plant Phillips and Marathon Oil Co. own there. Nikiski offers far more space than Valdez for construction of new industrial facilities, Bagley said. Cook Inlet offers a wide channel for LNG tanker ships, he said, and the inlet's geography means there is little threat of tsunamis. Phillips and Marathon have shipped LNG from Nikiski for 31 years without incident.

Proponents of the Valdez terminus argue that a spur could be built to supply North Slope gas to Cook Inlet communities.

However, Betsy Arbelovsky, executive director of the Kenai Peninsula Borough LNG project, said that, after discussions with Enstar Natural Gas Co., she believes the spur would cost at least $165 million to build, and consumers would foot the bill.

Williams said the first goal is to convince Anchorage and the Mat-Su borough to participate in the Cook Inlet Pipeline Terminus Group.

"Then, they should contribute their share to the finances and advertising," he said.

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