Natural gas coming to Ninilchik

Posted: Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Though the resource apparently is abundant enough to generate drilling activity by major energy players literally next door, the small Cook Inlet coastal community of Ninilchik has no access to natural gas.

An ordinance up for public hearing at the Aug. 16 meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly would appropriate a $225,000 state grant to build a natural gas pressure reducing system for the village, making gas available to the school and up to 47 additional parcels in the area, including the Ninilchik Senior Citizens Center.

Like many facilities there, Ninilchik's school currently is heated with fuel oil. It is anticipated that the availability of gas could reduce utility costs by as much as 60 percent, according to the borough.

State lawmakers approved the grant in Senate Bill 46, which was signed in June by Gov. Frank Murkowski.

Enstar Natural Gas Co. is prepared to install a pressure reducing system this summer. The borough's maximum contribution to the project will be the $225,000 in state grant funds, while Enstar will assume any costs over that amount.

According to the borough, Enstar is the only local entity with the expertise to install the system, and Ordinance 2005-19-11 would authorize Mayor Dale Bagley to enter a sole-source contract with Enstar. That is, the borough would not seek bids on the project.

Dave Bredin, operations manager for Enstar, said the company would tap off the Kenai-Kachemak gas pipeline and install the reducing system inside a 24-by-50-foot fenced area at the intersection of Reba Road and Oilwell Road. It will look similar to the facility at Kasilof not far south of the Kalifornsky Beach Road intersection.

Anticipating approval of the ordinance Tuesday, Bredin said the company was ready to begin constructing a gas distribution system next week. The pressure reduction device itself must be assembled in the shop. The company hopes to have it installed and gas available before freeze-up, Bredin said.

The distribution line will run due west along Oilwell to the Sterling Highway and then northward to just past Ninilchik School, with a line delivering gas to the senior center on Aspen Avenue.

"Anyone along that line can hook in," Bredin said.

The line will be the first element of what Enstar hopes will be a wider system in the community.

"We are hoping to get quite a few gas inquiries for service off this initial build," he said.

Future extensions might involve formation of local improvement districts or private developments.

Enstar has scheduled a public meeting for 6 p.m. Aug. 17 at the senior center. Anyone interested in getting gas service should attend.

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