Gas storage moves forward: Kenai council OKs rezoning

Posted: Sunday, September 05, 2010

The Kenai City Council passed a re-zoning ordinance at its meeting Wednesday night that would allow industry on the property planned for the Cook Inlet Natural Gas Storage facility.

This was the city of Kenai's first action relating to Enstar's project, which would still need a conditional use permit to allow for gas manufacturing and storage on the property.

Despite a lone resident dissenter, the council unanimously passed the ordinance to re-zone the 40-acre parcel by Bridge Access Road and Beaver Loop to heavy industrial from rural residential.

Richard Gentges, a project manager for the facility, gave an overview of the new underground natural gas storage facility to be constructed in Kenai.

He said the facility would be used to store gas in a nearly depleted gas production field in the summer and be used to meet the high fuel needs in winter months, which is forecasted to exceed the capability of local production.

"This is a long-term solution to Southcentral Alaska's natural gas requirements," he said.

The project plans consist of a storage reservoir that would be 5,000 feet below ground surface, Gentges said, along with a well pad connected via pipeline across Bridge Access Road to a compressor station with gas processing equipment. There will be five injection and withdrawal wells within the reservoir.

"The process we're using has a long and well-established history that goes along with it," Gentges said, adding there are 400 of these facilities in the U.S. and 18,000 storage wells across the U.S. and Canada.

In the event there is a bullet line to the Kenai Peninsula, he said, the infrastructure would already exist at the storage facility to help reduce the cost of future gas pipeline infrastructure from the North Slope. The larger the diameter of the pipeline, the more expensive it is, he said.

"It's really a means of building infrastructure," Gentges explained.

But, Kenai resident and owner of Inlet Fish producers, Vincent Goddard, was concerned about the safety of the project in the event of an earthquake.

He asked the council to require Enstar to conduct seismic studies.

"We really don't know what the experience would be if a 1964-type earthquake happened in Cook Inlet," Goddard said.

He said from the very beginning of the project Enstar assured him it would follow guidelines in the state of Alaska for earthquakes, however he came to find out there are no guidelines.

Ed Scarpace, another project manger with Cook Inlet Natural Gas Storage, tried to ease Goddard's fears. He said all foundations of the facility are designed to meet the earthquake zone codes in Alaska, which is more stringent than California.

"There haven't been any instances of an earthquake destroying a gas storage reservoir in the U.S.," Scarpace said.

Gentges said the project is in the permit stage right now, needing approval from several federal, state and local bodies like the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Deparment of Natural Resources and the Army Corps of Engineers.

"If all these things occur we will start construction consisting of land clearing activities in October and November," he said. Then in May, the 18-month construction period of the compressor station would begin.

At peak construction, the project is estimated to employ 150 to 200 jobs. When the facility is complete and running with a high degree of automation there will be two to three full-time employees.

According to a memo from Marilyn Kebschull regarding the ordinance, once the land, which was previously owned by the University of Alaska, was sold to Enstar for the storage facility, the zoning on the public-turned-private parcel was no longer accurate. By changing the zoning of the area, council was updating te city's comprehensive plan.

Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at

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