Top Oil CEOs Meet With Gov. Parnell In Anchorage

Photo by Lori Townsend, APRN - Anchorage: Governor Sean Parnell

A meeting characterized as historic took place at the Dena’ina center in Anchorage on Thursday, bringing the top CEOs of ConocoPhillips, BP, Exxon and Governor Parnell together for a first ever meeting to discuss a new approach to building a gasline for getting North Slope gas to market.

BP’s head Robert Dudley was the first to leave the closed door meeting and talk with reporters. Dudley said he was encouraged that economic conditions have changed in world markets. He says the potential to unlock Alaska’s gas for shipping as LNG to Pacific Rim markets is real.

“It’s a very large, large project, it needs scale. It will be an enormous investment, there are many steps that need to be worked out but one of the first one is getting alignment among 3 companies and working with the state. And I’m very encouraged and I think over the weeks and months ahead, I’m hopeful we can lay out a set of specifics to help move that gas to market,” Dudley said.

Photo by Lori Townsend, APRN - Anchorage: BP CEO Bob Dudley

Dudley says moving the gas south to tidewater in Alaska is probably the most economical way to go. The Governor said getting the three companies together is a strong signal to Alaskans that there is serious commitment to getting a gas project going.

“What I’m attempting to achieve is, we already have alignment between Transcanada and Exxon, I’m working to bring alignment now between Transcanada, Exxon and the other two companies, BP and ConocoPhillips. But to do that requires greater alignment between these three companies that actually own the gas and that’s what I was working to achieve there,” Parnell said.

The Governor was clear that he is still planning to develop the line within the framework of AGIA- the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act. But that is seen as problematic to some. Former Governor Tony Knowles was in attendance. He says he doesn’t think much of AGIA.

“You can’t outsource the fundamental responsibility of Alaska’s government to negotiate the development of our resources. And that’s basically what I believe AGIA did, it outsourced it and not only that, it subsidized it. So, that’s I think, not by anyone’s announcement, but that’s gone,” Knowles said.

But Parnell says AGIA protects Alaskans interests in ensuring there will be take off points for Alaskans to access gas and encourage future exploration. He says incentives, like the $500 million to Transcanada also help advance the line.

“There are royalty inducements already in AGIA for those who got their gas in the first open season. Those, those, that give and take was already established by the legislature in law. The state’s interests were protected, there were some inducements given to participate. That remains the law of the land and that’s what we’re trying to get alignment with,” Parnell said.

Photo by Lori Townsend, APRN - Anchorage: ConocoPhillips CEO Jim Mulva

The Governor stressed the idea of alignment between the companies. This may take considerable work. Gas from Point Thompson will be important to getting a gasline project developed, but although the state and

Photo by Lori Townsend, APRN - Anchorage: Former Alaska Governor Tony Knowles

Exxon have reached a ‘resolution in principle’ in the litigation over developing the field, there is still not an agreement in place with BP, Chevron and ConocoPhillips. Also BP and ConocoPhillips had for a time, pursued their own gasline project called Denali, but abandoned it last year from lack of commitments from producers for gas shipments.

“I want to see Transcanada and Exxon, BP and Conoco in alignment moving forward. And I want to see measurable benchmarks that Alaskans can count on and that they can point to and say, this happens on X date and that way we know that progress is being made on a gasline,” Parnell said.

ConocoPhillips CEO Jim Mulva said the meetings focused on commercializing North Slope gas and promoting new investment in oil development. Mulva says the companies have committed to working hard throughout 2012 to move forward. He said LNG is the best alternative for Alaska’s gas. He called North Slope gas a challenged resource.

“Not because it’s not a good resource, it’s very good resource, just because of where it’s located. There’s a lot of investment and cost and we just have to really work this very hard, because what we see is a strong, good Asian pacific market and that’s where the Alaska North Slope gas should go,” Mulva said.

The Governor was careful in his phrasing about where the line should end, saying only that it should be at tidewater. He said he didn’t want to demand a specific site be used, saying economics should drive it. ConocoPhillps has an LNG facility at Nikiski. There is also the terminal at Valdez and ports in Southcentral at Anchorage and Point McKenzie.

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Lori Townsend is the News Director for the Alaska Public Radio Network. She got her start in broadcasting at the age of 11 as the park announcer of the fast pitch baseball games in Deer Park, Wisconsin. She has worked in print and broadcast journalism for more than 24 years. She was the co-founder and former Editor of Northern Aspects, a magazine featuring northern Wisconsin writers and artists. She worked for 7 years at tribal station WOJB on the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibway Reservation in Wisconsin, first as an on-air programmer and special projects producer and eventually News Director. In 1997 she co-hosted a continuing Saturday afternoon public affairs talk program on station KSTP in St. Paul, Minnesota. Radio brought her to Alaska where she worked as a broadcast trainer for Native fellowship students at Koahnic Broadcasting. Following her work there, she helped co-found the non-profit broadcast company Native Voice Communications. NVC created the award-winning Independent Native News as well as producing many other documentaries and productions. Townsend was NVC’s technical trainer and assistant producer of INN. Through her freelance work, she has produced news and feature stories nationally and internationally for Independent Native News, National Native News, NPR , Pacifica, Monitor Radio, Radio Netherlands and AIROS. Her print work and interviews have been published in News from Indian Country, Yakama Nation Review and other publications. Ms. Townsend has also worked as a broadcast trainer for the Native American Journalist’s Association and with NPR’s Doug Mitchell and as a freelance editor. Townsend is the recipient of numerous awards for her work from the Alaska Press Club, the Native American Journalists Association and a gold and a silver reel award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. Townsend was the recipient of a Fellowship at the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting in Rhode Island as well as a fellowship at the Knight Digital Media Center in Berkeley. She is an avid reader, a rabid gardener and counts water skiing, training horses, diving and a welding certification among her past and current interests. ltownsend (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8452 | About Lori