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.
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.
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.
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.
The impact of plummeting oil prices is finally hitting Alaska’s oilpatch. ConocoPhillips Alaska Inc. said Tuesday it will cut about 10 percent of its 1,200 Alaska employees.
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 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 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.
ConocoPhillips is getting out of the natural gas production business in Cook Inlet.
The company has put its inlet gas assets up for sale and plans to open a data room for prospective buyers.
However, the company’s liquefied natural gas plant at Nikiski is not included in the assets for sale, company spokeswoman Amy Burnett said.
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.
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 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.
The state-owned Alaska Gasline Development Corp. has developed preliminary designs for “offtake” facilities that would allow communities to take natural gas from a large-diameter gas pipeline, if one were built.
The designs were presented to AGDC’s board of directors at its June 11 meeting.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
BlueCrest Energy plans to resume drilling at the Cosmopolitan oil and gas deposit near Anchor Point this summer, BlueCrest CEO Benjamin Johnson said.
The company, based in Fort Worth, Texas, has signed a Memorandum of Terms with WesPac Midstream LLC to help finance development of gas resources at Cosmopolitan oil.