ConocoPhillips Seeks Export Permit Extension

Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau

On Thursday, Legislators encouraged Southcentral residents to have a say in their future energy needs.   Seven members of the State House and Senate said ConocoPhillips needs to assure a local supply of natural gas for the region before getting an extension of its export license.   ConocoPhillips and Marathon Oil have applied for a new permit to extend the time allowed to ship 98 billion cubic feet of gas under a permit granted in 2008 – about 40 billion cubic feet remain.

While not opposing the export permit – pointing to its value to the state and region — Anchorage Democrat Bill Wielechowski said Alaska needs to make certain it takes care of its own before shipping more gas to Japan.

Enstar is Anchorage’s local natural gas utility. Under federal law, local needs must be met before export is allowed, and Wielechowski predicts that after shortages in 2011 and 2012, more than a third of the region’s needs will be unmet in 2013.

Natalie Lowman with Conoco-Phillips says as long as the LNG plant is in operation, the company will continue to meet local needs.

The application Conoco Phillips has filed with the US Department of Energy says the new permit will not provide more gas for export than was allowed under the current permit.  The company also promises to provide a back up supply for local needs.  Without the permit, there is a risk the company would cut off year-round production because of market conditions – making the export permit the key to actual expansion of supply and future energy security.

Anchorage Republican Mike Hawker sponsored the Cook Inlet Recovery Act that was signed into law following this year’s session.  He says he recognizes the potential supply problem, but says the export license is critical to avoiding a region-wide failure.   Hawker says the wells generate excess gas when they’re not meeting peak demand.

The US Energy Department will accept public comments on the export permit until August 1.

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