Southcentral utilities report gas supply is secture to 2018, ‘black holes’ beyond, and worries remain
October 7, 2013
By Suzanna Caldwell | The Alaska Dispatch: Last year, it was hard not to miss the message Southcentral Alaska utilities and political leaders were shouting: a natural gas shortage was just around the corner, and with that, residents should begin thinking about austerity measures. Based on supplies of the day, customers using natural gas to heat and power their homes — nearly all of the roughly 400,000 people who live in the state’s main population center — were cautioned to take heed. At every public meeting, warnings were made that gas supplies after 2014 were questionable, and residents should be prepared for potential hiccups at times of peak demand. A media blitz to highlight an awareness campaign that color-coded the voluntary measures customers should take was everywhere. But then everything changed.
In spring, the utilities announced that natural gas contracts for Southcentral utilities are shored up through 2018 essentially pushing the concerns out at least another four years. But past that, “black holes” still remain.
Producers are still working toward solving the riddle of delivering that gas to the customers they’re contractually bound to serve. Now, the concern has switched from whether there’s enough gas to warm Southcentral Alaska to how gas can get from Cook Inlet into your furnace room and kitchen.
“Between now and 2018, it’s a distinction between volumes and deliverability,” said Moira Smith, vice president and general council for Enstar, the state’s largest natural gas utility, which provides the natural gas that heats thousands of homes and businesses in Southcentral Alaska every day. Having a volume of gas committed, she said, “doesn’t actually mean that we’re OK on a day-to-day basis” because it still needs to be delivered.