Alaska Governor Sean Parnell announced last Friday a new way forward on a long-hoped-for natural gas pipeline that includes scrapping the terms of a 2007 law he says no longer works well for the situation.
In a major policy speech in Anchorage, Parnell said the state and Canadian pipeline builder TransCanada have agreed to terminate their involvement under the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act (AGIA). He made clear, however, that TransCanada would remain a partner in the project, just under new terms.
Gov. Parnell, who was Gov. Palin’s lieutenant governor, announced that the state and pipeline-builder TransCanada have agreed to terminate their working relationship under AGIA but remain engaged in pursuit of a pipeline.
Parnell said he would seek legislative approval for the state to participate in a new commercial agreement with TransCanada; the North Slope's three major players, ExxonMobil, BP and ConocoPhillips; and the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. He said he expected a set of terms to be signed soon.
A new statement of intent for the North Slope
Natural Resources Commissioner Joe Balash called the commercial agreement a "broad roadmap" and statement of intent. He said in an interview that legislation would have to be passed to accomplish what is being contemplated and the state plans to enter a separate, more narrowly defined agreement with TransCanada for pipeline services.
The terms of the inducement act will remain in force for the time being, though the parties envision transitioning into the new arrangement once enabling legislation is passed, Balash said.
"Nobody's letting go of the rope just yet," he said, but he noted the state and TransCanada had "pre-agreed" to make the transition. A TransCanada spokesman said the company would continue working to advance the pipeline project.
Parnell said he would propose legislation that would allow the state to enter into shipping agreements to move and sell gas. The legislation also would ask lawmakers to switch to a flat gross tax and allow for certain leases to pay production taxes with gas. Parnell previously said he would not propose gas tax legislation unless he saw demonstrable progress on the line. "The bottom line: We will have an investment-quality project when that's complete," he said Friday.
Parnell said having the state participate in a line is a way to protect the state's interests, and as a partner, Alaskans stand to gain more.
“As a partner in the gas line project, Alaska will control its own destiny,” Parnell said. “Ownership ensures we either pay ourselves for project services, or negotiate and ensure the lowest possible costs. As a partner, Alaskans stand to gain more.”
He said the structure is attractive to North Slope oil and gas companies, too, because it could reduce their costs.
A project for Alaska
Alaskans have long seen as a gas line as a way to create jobs, provide energy for residents and shore up revenues as oil production declines. There have been fits and starts over the years, but Parnell and other state officials believe the current project has momentum.
While Parnell in the past argued for continuing to pursue a project under terms of the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act, even as some state legislators saw it as a dead end, he has indicated he no longer views it as the best way forward.
Gov. Parnell, who for years was a faithful public supporter of AGIA, has turned the page. The project that it was designed to induce — a gas line from the North Slope and into Canada, where the gas would then find its way into a network to the Lower 48 — has fallen out of economic favor. ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and BP, which hold the North Slope gas leases, never liked AGIA and opposed it in the Legislature.
Parnell now says the law was designed for one project developer, but the project initially envisioned — a pipeline that would run from the prodigious North Slope into Canada to serve North America markets — has changed, and so have the players.
In 2008, TransCanada won an exclusive license to pursue the project, with a promise of up to US$ 500 million in reimbursable costs from the state. ExxonMobil later joined TransCanada's effort. ConocoPhillips and BP, which opposed provisions of the law, pursued a rival line of their own before abandoning it in 2011.
The new plan
The companies, at Parnell's urging, united in the last few years behind a liquefied natural gas project capable of overseas exports. The proposed line would run from the slope to south-central Alaska and could cost from US$ 45 billion to more than US$ 65 billion, according to company estimates. The companies have repeatedly said they need competitive, predictable and durable terms on oil and gas taxes and royalties but also have indicated they are open to having the state take an equity position.
Natalie Lowman, a spokeswoman for ConocoPhillips Alaska, said the company sees the new direction laid out by Parnell as a positive step forward and looks forward to working with the state and the Legislature.
“We all share the common goal of wanting to develop these important natural gas assets in a way that shows continued progress towards building Alaska’s energy future,” said TransCanada spokesman Davis Sheremata.
Edited from various sources by Elizabeth Corner
Read the article online at: https://www.worldpipelines.com/business-news/13012014/new_agreement_for_north_slope_pipeline_players_in_alaska/