Stevens favors gas pipeline route through Fairbanks

Posted: Sunday, August 20, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Sen. Ted Stevens is opposed to routing a natural gas export pipeline along the Arctic coast into Canada, instead favoring a route through Fairbanks and south along the Alaska Highway to the Lower 48.

Stevens said in an e-mail that any pipeline to the Lower 48 should go to Fairbanks then south along the Alaska Highway.

''As long as I am in the Senate I will oppose taking Alaska's gas out of Alaska following the 'Arctic Alaska' route,'' Stevens said. ''That route would deny Alaskans access to the largest deposit of natural gas ... on the North American continent. ... It should come down the oil pipeline right-of-way and follow the Alaska Highway to Canada.''

Stevens also said it is ''my position that Alaskans should be able to take gas to other portions of the state.''

Alaska's North Slope has 35 trillion cubic feet of known natural gas reserves. Finding a market for the gas has been a dream for more than 30 years. But projects have foundered on high cost and low gas prices. In the past year, however, prices have climbed roughly 60 percent.

Stevens is opposed to the so-called 'Arctic Alaska' route from Prudhoe Bay, offshore to the MacKenzie Delta and south into Canada, because it does not provide gas for Alaskans.

The Alaska Highway pipeline route would follow the oil pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to Fairbanks then the Alaska Highway into Canada. Stevens said this route is preferable to the Arctic route.

A liquefied natural gas project would pipe gas to Valdez, chill it into a liquid, then ship it to Asia. This project has high cost and currently lacks a market for the gas.

A gas-to-liquids project that would refine gas into a liquid called ''white crude'' that could flow through the oil pipeline. Producers like Exxon Co. USA and BP Alaska are still testing gas-to-liquids technology.

So far, none are clearly profitable ventures given the multibillion-dollar upfront cost, harsh environment, technical challenges and vast distances involved in moving North Slope gas to market.

Proponents of the Arctic route agreed Thursday that provisions must be made for Fairbanks, suggesting either a pipeline spur or a plant to strip gas from the crude oil in the pipeline on the edge of town.

''We have to be sensitive to desires in central Alaska,'' said Bob Murphy, president of Houston-based Arctic Resources.

BP spokesman Paul Laird said his company has no preferred route yet. ''We're conducting a study of all options. ... When we reach a conclusion, political considerations will be part of the equation,'' he said.



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