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The 800-mile natural gas pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to Nikiski – the center component of the multibillion-dollar Alaska LNG project – is a symbol of Alaska’s 40-year quest for North Slope natural gas development.

Among the project work this year is fine-tuning plans for the 42-inch pipeline – firming its exact route, testing soils, searching for earthquake faults, scoping the most buildable corridor with the least environmental impact and the fewest construction problems.

Preliminary maps filed in February 2015 with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission identify the 2,000-foot-wide “study corridor” that project sponsors and their teams are reviewing.

If you could walk, drive or fly over the route, this is what you would see and could learn about the people and places along the way.

The draft "resource reports" that Alaska LNG submitted to federal regulators include maps of the potential pipeline route and land ownership, a discussion of construction plans, descriptions of fisheries and vegetation along the route, and identification of seismic hazards in the project areas.

The reports are just the first of two drafts the sponsors will submit to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. They lack specifics on how the megaproject might affect the environment or communities along the route, and what could be done to lessen those effects.

Those impact projections, such as highway traffic and school enrollment, stream and wetlands effects, will come in the revised drafts planned for the first quarter of 2016, according to the sponsors.

"These first draft resource reports ... focus primarily on describing the baseline environmental and socioeconomic conditions," the sponsors told FERC.

Beware the attraction of the proverbial “window of opportunity,” a speaker warned at an Asia-Pacific LNG conference in Singapore. Rushing a liquefied natural gas export project to jump through the perceived open window can hurt.

“I’ve been around long enough to know to give very low credence to LNG windows,” said Vivek Chandra, a 24-year veteran of the international gas business and CEO of Texas LNG, one of several U.S. Gulf Coast LNG hopefuls.

Good project decisions are not about an open window that supposedly is closing, but rather an ongoing process based on fundamentals of market supply, demand and price.

Good projects get built, Chandra said.

Guide to Alaska gas projects
and glossary of gas terms

blue gas flame

Hundreds of millions of state dollars have been allocated to a variety of projects that could move North Slope natural gas to market. These include an ambitious North Slope producer-led effort that could pipe massive amounts of gas to an LNG export plant, a small-volume state-sponsored pipeline project and an even smaller-scale proposal to truck LNG to Fairbanks, Interior Alaska’s largest community.

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Prudhoe Bay’s Central Gas Facility

Sometime in the mid-2020s, the grand strategy for how to produce Alaska’s great Prudhoe Bay oil and gas field – send the crude oil and other liquids to market; reinject the natural gas – will be primed to pivot.

That’s because gas reinjection, which has proved spectacularly successful in pushing more oil from Prudhoe, will be losing part of its oomph roughly 50 years after the 1977 start-up of production there.

The timing dovetails with plans of the Alaska LNG project to start sending maybe a third of Prudhoe’s gas production to market around that same period. The convergence could make the mid-2020s a time like no other to start cashing out Prudhoe Bay’s trillions of cubic feet of natural gas reserves.


Any project as large and complex as a multibillion-dollar natural gas project from Alaska's North Slope will require numerous federal, state and local permits. Agencies have been working with developers on National Environmental Policy Act and permitting efforts for an Alaska gas line project.

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