The Kenai liquid natural gas plant has been approved to continue its exports through March of 2013.
The U.S. Department of Energy approved a two-year extension to the plant's export license, which is operated jointly by ConocoPhillips and Marathon Oil Company, on Wednesday.
"ConocoPhillips is very pleased and we'll keep the plant running through March of 2013," said Natalie Lowman, a spokesperson for the company, based in Anchorage.
The previous license to export a total of 99 billion cubic feet of gas was set to expire in less than six months at the end of this coming March.
The extension buys the plant time to export more than 40 bcf of gas they still have authorization to ship out.
The extension does not increase the volume of gas, though.
Lowman said that there were no immediate answers about what will happen with the plant after March of 2013.
"At this point were just pleased with this step," she said.
Last May, Dan Clark, the Cook Inlet plant manager for ConocoPhillips Alaska Inc, told an industry support group meeting in Kenai that the company would either need to secure a new supply of gas or use the plant in other ways.
"There may be this period of time where there's a different type of usage of the plant or maybe no uses of the plant for a couple years. I don't know," Clark said at a meeting of the Kenai chapter of The Alliance.
Lowman would not say if the company had any customers signed up past the end of this March.
"We don't typically discuss our contract agreements with customers," Lowman wrote later in an e-mail.
The plant has shipped LNG to Japan since 1969 and is owned 70 percent by ConocoPhillips and 30 percent by Marathon.
The facility employees about 60 directly and is estimated to support an additional 50 indirect jobs on the Kenai Peninsula.
Dante Petri can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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