The federal government is paying for a $4 million study to look at another way to get natural gas to Southcentral Alaska.
Enstar Natural Gas Co., Arctic Slope Regional Corp. and Michael Baker Engineering will use the money to study the economics of building a natural gas spur pipeline to the region following the Parks Highway, Enstar Spokesman Curtis Thayer said.
He said half came from the Department of Energy and the other half from the federal highway bill.
This pipeline would have the ability to tap into North Slope gas from a proposed larger pipeline to the Midwest as well as natural gas in the Nenana Basin if any is discovered, he said. Thayer said the benefit of this route is that it would be able to supply two thirds of the state with natural gas, including Fairbanks.
Right now, Fairbanks residents do not have access to natural gas.
Thayer said this study has been in the works for over a year and will begin at the end of October.
"Cook Inlet needs gas in the long term," he said.
Southcentral, a region that has enjoyed abundant and cheap natural gas, is running out. Enstar has publicly supported a project that brings North Slope gas to the region, but has also said liquefied natural gas imports may also be an option.
This pipeline route is just one idea on how to bring more natural gas to Southcentral Alaska.
The Alaska Natural Gas Development Authority, or ANGDA, has been studying a spur line that would branch off the proposed larger pipeline that followed the Glenn Highway to Palmer. It would then be hooked up to Enstar's pipeline system for distribution to the entire region, including the Kenai Peninsula.
No spur line is possible, however, without a bigger pipeline to connect it to. Thayer said Enstar is looking at the Parks Highway route because it is an option that nobody else is studying.
If 35 trillion cubic feet of gas is available to be shipped to the region, it would represent a 100-year supply of gas for the region, he said.
ANGDA CEO Harold Heinze has said that his organization is not in competition with Enstar and does not want to duplicate efforts.
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