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July 3, 2002 The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner finds gems in disappointing BP news

Posted: Monday, July 08, 2002

Just because the news wasn't surprising doesn't make it any less disappointing.

During a recent stop in Anchorage, BP chief executive Lord John Browne made it clear that the prospects for a pipeline to carry natural gas from the North Slope to market in the Lower 48 aren't very good right now. In a nutshell: oil production on the slope is falling, costs are rising and Alaska doesn't appear to hold up well to competition from other natural gas markets.

Still, Browne's news about BP in Alaska wasn't all bad. The company, he said, plans to maintain its presence in Alaska and will invest more than $500 million in the state this year and each of the next few years. Certainly, seeing movement toward a gas pipeline -- preferably one that runs through Fairbanks, of course -- would be the best news, but in a time when the oil industry is declining even while we continue to rely so heavily on its revenues, this is something to be thankful for.

Meanwhile, this is a good time to mention that although this particular project appears to be years off even in a best-case scenario, there are other opportunities out there. For one, the Legislature this year passed a bill that would allow entry into the Minto Flats State Game Refuge for exploration and possible development of oil and gas resources.

Doyon Ltd. and Andex Resources of Houston want to explore for such reserves in the basin area. While it might not be on the scale of a North Slope-originating pipeline, at about 40 miles away from Fairbanks, any positive outcomes in the Basin area could have a major local impact much quicker. In late June, Gov. Tony Knowles signed into law the bill OK'ing the exploration, giving the project a much-needed green light.

So, even if a gas pipeline extending the entire length of Alaska is still but a dream, other opportunities could be much closer to becoming a reality -- and much closer to Fairbanks.

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