Tim Bradner

Sisters ready to grow business 10 years after winning AFN competition

If three Sparck sisters from Bethel fulfill their ambition to grow their small ArXotica Inc. into a large skin and health care products enterprise, a lot of credit should go to the Alaska Federation of Natives “Marketplace” business competition.

That’s something the sisters — Michelle, Amy and Cika — readily acknowledge.

In 2006, the Sparcks landed grants for critical startup cash through the AFN Marketplace, where entrepreneurs, mostly from rural areas, present their ideas and business plans to a panel of judges.

Governor seeking to expand pipe size of gas line from 42 inches in diameter to 48

Gov. Bill Walker has persuaded the state’s industry partners in the Alaska LNG Project to consider a larger pipe size that would be capable of shipping more North Slope natural gas, the governor said in a Sept. 4 interview with the Alaska Journal of Commerce.

Sources among North Slope producers confirmed the governor’s understanding.

“If the pipe is expanded the state and the producers have agreed to share the cost of the expansion,” said Katie Marquette, Walker’s press secretary.

Governor: ‘Significant’ issues must be resolved before gasline session

Negotiations on Alaska LNG Project agreements with the state of Alaska are at a critical juncture, Gov. Bill Walker said in an interview Friday.

“We’re not as close as I wish we could be. There are a number of significant issues we have to get closure on,” before legislators can be notified of a special session to ratify the gas agreements, the governor said.

Large premium increases OK’d for some individual, family insurance policies

The Alaska Division of Insurance has approved significant 2016 health insurance rate increases for individual and family policies issued by two companies selling health coverage.

A much smaller increase of 4 percent was approved for policies covering small groups of 50 to 250.

For the individual and family policies, a 2016 increase of 39.6 percent has been approved for Moda Health and a 38.7 percent increase was approved for Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska, according to Lori Wing-Heier, the state insurance director.

AG denies LNG plant sale to Hilcorp

Alaska Attorney General Craig Richards has rejected the proposed purchase by Harvest Alaska of a small liquefied natural gas plant at Port MacKenzie.

In a July 7 letter to Harvest, a subsidiary of Hilcorp Energy, Richards proposed changes in the LNG sales contract reached in November 2014 with Fairbanks Natural Gas, the existing plant owner that also operates a small gas utility serving about 1,100 business and residential customers in Fairbanks.

Shell drills in Chukchi Sea

Shell is drilling in the Chukchi Sea. The semi-submersible Polar Pioneer “spudded” the Burger J well at 5 p.m. July 29, company spokeswoman Meg Baldino said. Meanwhile, an ice-management vessel sent to Oregon for repairs is now en route after police cleared protesters that were blocking the vessel.

BP, ExxonMobil seek more Prudhoe gas

BP and ExxonMobil, two of the three major Prudhoe Bay field owners, have applied to the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission for an increase in the allowable volume of natural gas that can be produced and sold from the North Slope field.

The AOGCC, a quasi-judicial state regulatory commission with oversight of oil and gas production practices, has set a public hearing date of Aug. 27.

Discussion begins on oil tax credits

Alaska’s oil and gas explorer and small producer tax credit program has been capped for this year but the program is still on the books and applications for credits are still being accepted, state Revenue Commissioner Randy Hoffbeck said.

There is $500 million in the budget for the program and that’s enough to pay for tax credits that have been applied for, which total about $475 million, the commissioner said.

Walker reduces tax credit program with veto

Gov. Bill Walker vetoed $200 million in funding for oil exploration and development tax credits in a budget action on June 30, in effect capping the program at $500 million for state fiscal year 2016 that began July 1.

The program was previously budgeted at $700 million.

“This has been a tough budget year and no sector, from senior citizens to low-income Alaskans, or oil and gas explorers, is left untouched,” Walker said in a July 1 press conference.

Hilcorp acquires more inlet oil assets

Hilcorp Alaska will purchase XTO Energy assets in the Middle Ground Shoal of Cook Inlet and is also studying a possible restart of a shut-in platform in the field.

Two oil-producing platforms, tank facilities and an office and support facilities at Nikiski, near Kenai, are included in the purchase deal with XTO, the company said in a statement issued July 6. 

“Hilcorp anticipates making offers to all 31 employees that currently operate the Middle Ground Shoal assets,” spokeswoman Lori Nelson wrote in an email.

3 companies bid on 7 inlet leases

Bidding was modest in the state’s annual Cook Inlet areawide lease sale held May 7, a symptom of low crude oil prices and a limited regional market for natural gas.

The state Division of Oil and Gas auctioned seven oil and gas leases May 7 to three companies. Hilcorp Energy LLC and AIX Energy LLC, two producers in the region, bid on and were awarded tracts along with Woodstone Resources LLC, a small independent company based in Texas.

AIDEA approves $30 million deal for Cosmo development

The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority has given approval for a $30-million financing package that will allow BlueCrest Energy to begin drilling and development at its Cosmopolitan offshore oil project in Cook Inlet.

BlueCrest will have construction of onshore facilities under way in late summer and drilling started near the first of next year, company President Benjamin Johnson said.

Legislators may get last word on gasline

After a session spent dueling with Gov. Bill Walker over his plan to spend $85 million in state funds to increase the size of a state-led natural gas pipeline, and Walker’s veto of a bill stopping him from spending the money, the Legislature may have gotten the final word.

In their final budget action before adjourning April 27, lawmakers took the money away from the governor.

Consultants: State-led gasline project could undermine industry-led plan

Two consultants to the state Legislature have warned that Gov. Bill Walker’s quest for an expanded state-led natural gas pipeline could undermine the larger industry-led gas project in which the state also is a partner.

“The state and its commitment has become a major risk factor for the Alaska LNG Project,” Nikos Tsafos, of the consulting firm Enalytica, told the Senate Resources Committee April 16. “A process where the state is appearing to pursue two projects at the same time could undermine both.”

Except for dividend checks, citizens disconnected from Alaska’s finances

Alaska’s current budget crisis can easily be blamed on the plunge in oil prices, which are less than half what they were nine months ago, but some responsibility should be laid at the door of the state’s citizens, who are largely disconnected from state spending decisions — except to spend more.

The disconnect is because Alaskans are largely insulated from having to pay taxes. In fact, the state sends every citizen a big Permanent Fund Dividend check every year.

Legislators push back on Walker gas plan; industry takes wait-and-see approach

Just as things seemed to be going reasonably well for the large Alaska LNG Project, the $45 billion to $65 billion gas pipeline and liquefied natural gas initiative in which the state is a partner, Gov. Bill Walker may be throwing a wrench into the works.

State legislators, and the state’s industry partners in the big project, are now worried about the governor’s Feb. 18 announcement that he will pursue a larger version of a small state-backed pipeline intended now to supply gas to Alaskans.

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