Southcentral may soon import natural gas to keep lights on 

By Patti Epler of Alaska Dispatch: Alaska may have trillions of cubic feet of natural gas buried in the earth on the North Slope, offshore in the Arctic, and beneath the waters of Cook Inlet, but the state may soon be importing it from Outside to keep the lights on in Southcentral.

Railbelt utilities and the Alaska Natural Gas Development Authority are studying the cost and other issues surrounding the import of liquefied natural gas (LNG). The state agency is coordinating with the utilities and expects its report to be ready before the end of the legislative session, said ANGDA chief executive Harold Heinze.

He acknowledges the idea has a “bringing coals to Newcastle” feel. “But if it’s that or the lights go out, the (utilities) are pretty good with the idea of keeping the lights on,” Heinze said.

Joe Griffith, general manager of Matanuska Electric Association, has been warning business groups and others that the utilities need a new supply of gas. And they need it before any long-term project — like a big gas line from the North Slope to Valdez or a smaller line from the Slope to Southcentral — can be put in place. Studies have shown a shortfall in gas supplies as soon as 2013.

“It’s not a question of ‘if’ it’s going to happen,” Griffith said. “It’s going to happen.”

Anchorage Municipal Light & Power general manager Jim Posey told an Anchorage business forum last fall that his utility was studying the import of LNG and would have a report within a year. Chugach Electric Association and Enstar Natural Gas Co. also were involved in the review. Read more

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