Progress Toward a Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline Thwarted by Shale Gas

Michael Giberson

In February, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission made its eleventh report to the U.S. Congress on the status of efforts to build a natural gas pipeline in Alaska. The twice-annual reports are required by the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Three efforts to bring gas from the North Slope of Alaska to market seem to be underway: TransCanada Alaska Company LLC, Denali – Alaska Gas Pipeline LLC – both of which intend to deliver gas across Canada to U.S. and Canadian markets  – and efforts by Alaskan state agencies for a pipeline to bring the gas to the southern coast for conversion to LNG.

TransCanada route map. Links to additional company information on route.
TransCanada route map. Image links to additional company information on route.

Reading between the lines it looks like all three gas pipeline efforts remain alive, more or less, but no one is anywhere close to actually building such a thing. With the current relationship between natural gas prices and oil prices in the United States, natural gas on the North Slope may be currently more valuable where it is, reinjected into reservoirs or otherwise used to aid crude oil production, than it would be in the lower 48 states.

If sufficient people in the industry believed shale gas skeptics and were pessimistic about the long term viability of the resource, someone would be beginning construction on a pipeline from Alaska. I conclude that the skeptics have not yet been persuasive.

Also at links to all eleven reports to Congress.

4 thoughts on “Progress Toward a Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline Thwarted by Shale Gas

  1. Why the word “thwarted”. How about this take:

    Canadians have developed shale gas and are building a pipeline to the US. This reduces the need to build an expensive pipeline from Alaska, and frees up Alaskan gas for use in developing Alaska’s oil deposits.

    Capital which would have been used for that pipeline will be used elsewhere to raise living standards in other ways.

  2. I like it. The “progress … thwarted” framing unintentionally implies such a pipeline is unambiguously a good thing, but whether or not it is a good thing is a issue to be worked out. In the absence of better ways to deliver energy to customers, a pipeline might be a good thing but (as you point out) we have better – less costly – ways to serve customer demands.

  3. We will have to become our own best customers if we are ever to get it built. To start with we put 1/3 of the cost up front and guarantee loans for our other 2 partners. Of course we would be very picky who we chose. Next mandate all federal state and local governments switch to natural gas as it becomes available and transitionalby feasable. Next we let the native corporations become the vendors and distributers in the north slope and as the line works its way to its end. Start in prudhoe bay converting to gas find out how to make it work and follow the gasline with the tech. and provide service all the way down the line. By the time the line was finished we would have worked out all of the bugs in the worst envirenment in the world and have a viable natural gas industry to showcase the world. If we really wanted to do it right we would offer icentives to an autmaker to make a natural gas engine from scratch and build it here. After all we didn’t start liking diesel engines in our cars and trucks until they quit converting gas to diesel and built a diesel engine for small vehiclkes from scratch, conversions just aren’t as good. I know the devil is in the details but i bet this idea is more agreeable to most alaskans than anything that has been out there for the last 20 years

  4. We have no way of guaranteeing who may or may not buy our gas in ten years when it is finished. But if we become our best customers the market is here when the line is done. Native corporations get to play a major role in servicing their villages and be a part of a natural growth undustry,(pun intended). Natural gas is the natural clean burning alternitive to oil and the only viable clean transition fuel from fossil fuels to all the other wannabes out there that won’t realistily replace our energy needs for another fifty years.

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