The hunt for natural gas within the Nenana Basin -- a possibility that holds real and important promise as a future energy supply for the Interior -- received a major boost last week with the state's approval of a seven-year exploration license.
The state gave the go-ahead to Andex Resources, a Colorado-based company, through a license that gives the company sole rights to any natural gas within the nearly 500,000-acre basin located about 50 miles south of Fairbanks.
While most of Alaska has been focusing on the possibility of building a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope to the Lower 48, this option is much closer to home and more likely to bring results to the Fairbanks area in the near future. And this is no pie-in-the-sky plan: That some sort of gas reserves are out there has been known for decades. The only question is how significant the find will be.
Earlier this year, the Legislature passed a bill allowing Doyon Ltd. and Andex to conduct exploration. Now, with the state's licensing approval, the project's future is looking brighter and brighter.
Gas exploration and the potential for commercialization of any located reserves so close to home has many positives for the Interior. The discovery and development of a major natural gas source would boost local businesses that provide services to the energy industry, something particularly important as the oil industry continues its decline in the state. Such a project would be a catalyst, creating good jobs for skilled workers as well as spin-off industry jobs. Certainly that is good news in the midst of a sagging economy.
Perhaps best of all, Fairbanks and the surrounding communities could finally have easy and local access to a natural gas source, something long-hoped-for from a North Slope gas line but still many years away. That such a source could be so close at hand, both chronologically and geographically, makes it all the better.
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