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Many Alaskans hope that a side benefit of the proposed multibillion-dollar LNG project would be to spark a new golden age for Alaska’s historic mining industry.

Nothing is that simple for an industry beset by such challenges as numbing costs, remote sites, extreme climate and environmental landmines.

But siphoning a small stream of gas from the 800-mile pipeline feeding the Alaska LNG project could help mines improve their financial margins, shaving power costs in a place where energy can be extraordinarily expensive.

Alaska LNG has scheduled nine open houses across Alaska over the next few weeks to explain the project to the public, provide information and answer questions about the multibillion-dollar natural gas development that will span the length of the state.

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission officials will attend the meetings as part of the agency’s effort that will include preparing an environmental impact statement for the project.

The open house schedule, as of Oct. 21, runs from Oct. 28 to Nov. 20. Several open houses already have been held across the state, with additional open houses expected.

Field camp manager Matt Adkins of project contractor URS and archaeologist Lori
Field camp manager Matt Adkins of project contractor URS and archaeologist Lori Hansen of subcontractor Northern Land Use Research Alaska sift soil for artifacts during a shovel test conducted along the proposed Alaska LNG project pipeline route north of Trapper Creek on Aug. 7, 2014.

Armed with bug dope and bear spray, field crews hired by Alaska LNG spent their second consecutive summer making detailed records of soils, archaeology and other basic data needed for permitting and building a proposed multibillion-dollar liquefied natural gas project.

Alaska LNG plans to use the information in its permit applications to federal, state and local government agencies. The data on geology, topography, wildlife and past human activity will also help the joint venture make major engineering and investment decisions.

The field work is part of what’s known as pre-front-end engineering and design, an essential, early stage in the life of a megaproject that helps proponents determine whether or not to build. Alaska LNG anticipates spending about $500 million for pre-FEED through 2015, $30 million of which was slated for summer field work in 2014.

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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The multibillion-dollar natural gas project proposed for Alaska looks similar to the oil pipeline built almost 40 years ago: Extract a hydrocarbon from the North Slope and send it through an 800-mile pipeline to a year-round port, then pour it into ships to take the product to market.

But comparing the two commodities is like comparing baseball and slow-pitch softball. Oil and LNG are in many ways related, but their markets are separated by essential differences in how they’re played.

Oil is a global commodity trading rapidly, frequently and at enormous volumes among a vast array of producers, consumers, shippers and traders that have shaped the business for more than 150 years ago. Liquefied natural gas is still largely a regional industry, just 50 years old.

Why is oil a global commodity, while LNG is not?


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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