‘Window of opportunity’ seen for LNG Project

Brad Chastain presented the current status of the project Wednesday

The planets are aligning for the long-awaited plan to build a pipeline between the North Slope and Nikiski, Brad Chastain, the project’s manager, said during a presentation at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center on Wednesday.

“Every planet possible that we can think of is aligned right now,” Chastain said. “It’s hard to imagine any other planet (that) is needed to be in alignment. This is really, truly the window of opportunity for the project.”

New federal funding opportunities and global demand for oil and gas following the Russian invasion of Ukraine are among the factors breathing new life into the project, Chastain said.

Chastain was presenting for the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation, an independent corporation created by the Alaska Legislature and owned by the State of Alaska that’s been leading efforts to develop the Alaska LNG Project since 2017. That project, if completed, would move gas through an 800-mile pipeline from the North Slope to a liquefaction facility in Nikiski.

“The purpose of the Corporation is to monetize Alaska’s North Slope gas for the benefit of Alaskans,” Chastain said. “That means not only monetizing the revenue, but also making it available to Alaska.”

There are three main components of the Alaska LNG Project, Chastain told attendees: the gas treatment plant on the North Slope, the pipeline, and the liquefaction facility in Nikiski. The treatment plant will condition gas taken from the Prudhoe Bay and Point Thomson fields. Once the gas is conditioned, it will be moved through the pipeline to the Nikiski facility, where it will be liquefied.

The planned Alaska LNG pipeline route generally follows that of the trans-Alaska pipeline until about Livengood, which is north of Fairbanks. From there, the LNG pipeline veers west through the Denali Borough, into the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, under Cook Inlet and into Nikiski. Interconnections along the pipeline between the North Slope and Niksiki will address in-state demand for gas, Chastain said.

The plan is for the liquefaction plant in Nikiski — to be located south of the Nutrien plant near Miller Loop Road — to export 20 million tonnes per year. The project has gradually accumulated land parcels throughout Nikiski. From Nikiski, the gas would be changed from a gaseous to liquid state and then exported to primarily Asian markets, which is where Chastain said the demand is.

Funding got a major boost under the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Through that bill, which Sen. Lisa Murkowski helped spearhead, the LNG Project now has access to an existing loan guarantee program that will provide a roughly $26 billion funding backstop. The project’s total capital costs are estimated to be around $38.7 billion.

“It’s basically like going into your bank and saying … ‘I want to acquire some inventory for my business and I have somebody over here who will guarantee no matter what, that the loan will be repaid to the federal government,’” Chastain said. “You’re going to get a great interest rate from something like that.”

In response to skepticism about whether or not the project will ever get done, Chastain said the corporation is “very optimistic and good news could be coming soon.” He said the LNG project is one of the “most competitive projects in the world” and the “most competitive project in the United States,” primarily because it is already fully permitted and because of the impact Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has had on energy security.

Because the pipeline helps displace coal plants, Chastain said the project would be a net positive for the environment. Demand for LNG, Chastain said, is projected to grow over the next decades. In a situation where major renewable initiatives are implemented, demand for LNG drops off, but still does not reach zero.

“There’s a very adequate amount of room in the marketplace for us,” Chastain said.

Being able to distribute gas from the North Slope throughout Alaska will also address “uncertainty” about the state’s existing resources, Chastain said, such as the Cook Inlet basin, which he said is “heavily depleted.”

“Getting North Slope gas to Alaska is the solution for energy security,” he said.

When it comes to the environment, Chastain said the project is still a win because of the “dirtier” fuel sources it would displace. A lifecycle assessment commissioned by the corporation last year found that the project would emit about 50% less greenhouse gas — roughly 77 million metric tons — than is emitted by a “representative Asian regional coal supply chain.”

“Are there still emissions? Absolutely,” Chastain said. “But there’s also energy and energy security for ourselves and for our customers.”

Looking ahead, Chastain said the plan is to have the project led by developers instead of by the corporation. Among the groups he said the project is moving forward under include North Slope producers, the major pipeline developer Enbridge, LNG buyers and banks. He said there’s also been interest from Japan in financing foreign LNG projects.

“Certainly, we think we’re a very attractive opportunity for that,” Chastain said.

Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District Executive Director Tim Dillon, who attended Wednesday’s luncheon, said another benefit of the project would be the local jobs it would create. A priority for KPEDD, Dillon said, will be making sure Kenai Peninsula residents will get the “first crack” at those jobs.

Chastain said the project is expected to create about 12,000 jobs at the peak of construction and about 1,000 long-term operations jobs. When asked whether Alaska workers would be given priorities for those jobs, Chastain said he couldn’t say, but that there isn’t enough labor in Alaska to accommodate the work that needs to be done.

“I’d be lying to you if I said, ‘Oh, we’re going to do it all with Alaskans, and only Alaskans,’ ” Chastain said. “ … There’s going to be outside labor, but there’s going to be an immense amount of opportunity here locally.”

More information about the Alaska LNG Project, including an interactive pipeline map, can be found on the project website at alaska-lng.com.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.