Walker to attend LNG conference in Japan

Walker to attend LNG conference in Japan

Gov. Bill Walker has plans for one overseas trip, but not two.

The governor is headed to the LNG Producer-Consumer Conference in Tokyo later this year. Originally scheduled for Nov. 30, the single-day meeting is now planned for Nov. 24, Thanksgiving Day.

“Thanksgiving will be with chopsticks this year, which is fine. I’m happy with that,” Walker said in a Sept. 6 interview with the Alaska Journal of Commerce.

Walker spoke at the annual conference last year to promote the state’s natural gas resources and the Alaska LNG Project; he was the first sitting governor to speak at the event. U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan represented Alaska at the first LNG Producer-Consumer Conference in 2012 when he was the state’s Department of Natural Resources commissioner.

Rumors about a trip to Qatar are unfounded, however, according to the governor.

Qatari Ambassador to the U.S. Mohammed Jaham Al Kuwari invited Walker to visit the Middle Eastern nation when he came to Alaska in August, but that’s as far as it went. Walker said he does not have a trip scheduled.

“If there’s a benefit to Alaska, then I’ll do it. If there’s not, then I won’t,” he said simply.

At the LNG conference in Tokyo put on by the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the Asia Pacific Energy Research Centre, the governor will have a room reserved to meet with potential customers of the Alaska LNG Project.

“That’s a fairly typical thing to do to get your project up on the marquee a little bit,” Walker said.

He described the conference, as far as the state is concerned, as “all major, major buyers of LNG kind of wanting to know what’s happening in Alaska, what’s different than last time.”

Asian utilities are seen as the primary market for Alaska’s gas, and a lot has changed on AK LNG since Walker was in Japan at the conference last September.

The State of Alaska, through the Alaska Gasline Development Corp., is taking the lead on the $45 billion-plus North Slope gas export plan to see if alternative financing options can make the massive endeavor more competitive in the current buyers LNG market than the previous equity model with the state, BP, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil all chipping in.

The state-led project is still a concept at this point, but a new, formal alignment is expected in October, according to state project leaders.

Elwood Brehmer can be reached at elwood.brehmer@alaskajournal.com.