It has been a quiet winter at the Natchiq Module Assembly Site in Nikiski.
The industrial facility has been inactive since last summer, and plans for the coming construction season are up in the air. The company is in the process of bidding for several projects that could renew work at the site, said Keith Burke, Natchiq's vice president of external affairs.
"We should know more in 60 days," he said.
Natchiq is focusing on the North Slope and the Russian Far East this year, he said.
"Natchiq" means "seal" in Inupiaq.
The company is part of the Arctic Slope Regional Corp., the largest of Alaska's regional Native corporations formed in 1971 under the terms of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.
The corporation is the largest Alaskan-owned and operated company and one of the nation's largest minority-owned businesses, according to information from the company.
Natchiq is the corporation's largest subsidiary, with operations worldwide.
It has about 2,800 employees, of whom 2,300 work in Alaska. In 1999, its gross sales were about $320 million.
It evolved from Houston Contracting Co., a firm established in 1937 and acquired by the Arctic Slope Regional Corp. 1985.
Now Natchiq has its own subsidiaries, including Alaska Petroleum Contractors Inc., Houston Contracting, ASRC Parsons Engineering, Omega Service Industries, SPN de Venezuela and Natchiq Sakhalin Inc., formed in 1998, according to company literature.
The subsidiaries have maintenance contracts for North Slope oil field facilities, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and the Alyeska Pipeline Terminal as well as the Cook Inlet and Nikiski projects, Burke said.
The company plans to use the Nikiski assembly facility for at least five years, he said, depending on the scale and timing of industry products in the region.
The facility is used to assemble industrial modules, which he described as prefabricated, portable buildings housing specialized equipment.
How much work the facility will host largely depends on the development of the Russian oil fields off Sakhalin Island in the North Pacific. The Russian Far East is a strategic location for the Alaska oil and gas industry, Burke stressed.
This past fall, Natchiq won the maintenance contract for the Molikpaq platform, the first to come into production in the Sakhalin offshore fields. In March, Natchiq will bid on a "water flood module" for Sakhalin.
The module would contain filters and pumps to maintain pressure for oil extraction.
"I think we have a respectable chance of garnering that work," Burke said.
The bid award will be made in May, with construction to begin in June.
If Natchiq wins the bid, it plans to build the specialized module at the Nikiski facility, he said.
The other bid project the company is waiting to hear about is constructing a gas-to-liquid pilot project facility for BP Amoco. Natchiq probably would build that at Nikiski.
"That is the only immediate in-state project," Burke said.
Natchiq also plans to bid on module construction for BP's pending Liberty Project up north.
"It would not be this year," he said, "but we're hoping for next season."
Until more contracts come through, the only use of the site is as office space for Natchiq subsidiary Alaska Petroleum Contractors, to support its services in Cook Inlet's offshore field, he said.
Natchiq purchased the 25-acre site from Crowley Marine Services in 1997.
Through Alaska Petroleum Contractors, it upgraded the site, which now includes a heated warehouse and shop, office space, an 8-acre waterfront assembly field and a dock.
In the summer of 1998 the module assembly site at Nikiski began a major project building modules for the Arco Alaska Inc. Alpine oil field on the North Slope.
The module components came from Natchiq's Anchorage Fabrication Facility, which the company has operated since 1988.
At its peak, the project at Nikiski employed about 350 people.
The 11 completed modules were completed and shipped north in July 1999. Natchiq now is installing them at the Alpine field.
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