A Unocal Alaska Resources representative visited with Soldotna business leaders at the Riverside House last week to update Soldotna Chamber of Commerce members on what his company is doing since the sale announcement of its Alaska Nitrogen Products plant in Nikiski.
"Ever since the sale, people have been wondering what's going on with Unocal oil and gas," said oil and gas operations manager Martin Morell. "Well, we plan to stay a big part of the Kenai."
Morell told the audience how Unocal has been a part of oil and gas exploration on the Kenai since the 1940s, was part of early discoveries in the '50s and by the 1960s was the largest oil and gas producer in the state.
"Today, we're third, but on the peninsula we are by far the largest," he said.
Morell said the company puts $100 million a year into the economy of Southcentral Alaska through wages and local purchases, as well as spending "vast amounts" of money and time on donations in the community.
He also said Unocal is unique in that every barrel of oil and most of the natural gas it produces is used in Alaska.
"A number of companies are dependent on our oil and gas, such as the Alaska Nitrogen Products fertilizer plant, the Tesoro refinery, Enstar and local electrical utilities," Morell said. "They are creating value- added products here and providing a chain of jobs in our economy."
Morell said there are some fundamental structural changes going on in the industry and asked the business leaders for their support.
"By nature, our industry depletes its reserves, so we must replenish them to survive," he said. "Cook Inlet is very mature, but Unocal is very fortunate that in 1999 we maintained flat production after 30 years of decline."
He said there is 100 million barrels of oil remaining in the Cook Inlet basin, as well as what he called extremely rich methane gas reserves in coal fields.
But he said new oil wells need to be drilled regularly, as Unocal turns over 20 percent of its supply each year. He said coal bed methane is promising in the future, but technology to put it into production isn't viable yet.
"I would ask that as permits come up in the public process that you recognize the importance of the industry and provide comments," Morell said.
Today's guest speaker at the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce luncheon will be Brett Huber of Kenai River Sportsfishing Asso-ciation. The lunch is at noon at the Riverside House.
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