Elwood Brehmer

Ratepayers to save millions under Railbelt utilities’ power sharing deal

A trio of Alaska’s largest electric utilities announced an agreement Monday to start operating more as one.

Matanuska Electric Association, Anchorage’s Municipal Light and Power and Chugach Electric Association submitted a new power pooling and joint dispatch agreement to the Regulatory Commission of Alaska, also on Monday, that could cumulatively save between $12 million and $16 million per year, according to utility leaders.

Mental Health Trust Authority optimistic about timber land swap

JUNEAU — Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority land managers are optimistic Congress will approve a long-sought swap of Southeast timberland parcels with the U.S. Forest Service.

Trust Land Office Executive Director John Morrison told the authority board of trustees at their Thursday afternoon meeting in Juneau that getting the land exchange done is one of his agency’s top priorities.

Permitting delays put ConocoPhillips’ GMT-2 timeline in jeopardy

It’s taking longer than ConocoPhillips planned to get approval for its second oil development in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, which could delay production from the project by at least a year.

The company hopes to have the $1 billion-plus Greater Mooses Tooth-2 project producing by the end of 2020. Once fully developed with 33 wells, GMT-2 is expected to generate up to 30,000 barrels of oil per day.

For the Alyeksa team, it's 40 years down and 40 to go

There are a lot of people in Alaska banking on the hope that throughput decline is just the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System going through a minor midlife crisis.

Because if that’s the case, many billion more barrels of oil are likely to flow through it.

Having pumped oil for 40 years, nearly 17.5 billion barrels of North Slope crude have coursed Alaska’s 800-mile economic artery.

TAPS, or even more simply, “the pipeline,” to most Alaskans, is already living beyond its years, according to the folks responsible for it.

New oil escort tugs get poor review at citizens’ council

A vessel design firm hired by a Prince William Sound environmental watchdog group is very skeptical of the capability of tugs being built to escort oil tankers out of Valdez.

Marine engineer Robert Allan told members of the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council board of directors on Jan. 19 that his company found “fairly significant deficiencies” in the designs of two classes of tugs that Edison Chouest Offshore plans to use in the sound starting next year.

BP agrees to help state on gasline development

JUNEAU — Alaska still has one partner in its $45 billion liquefied natural gas export project.

BP and the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. announced an agreement of cooperation Jan. 23 “to collaborate in the development” of financing and customer contracts for the Alaska LNG Project, according to an AGDC press release.

Calista, Air Carriers launch apprenticeship programs

Just because Alaska’s economy has taken a few shots to the chin lately hasn’t changed the state’s long-term need for an increasingly skilled workforce.

Recognizing that, Calista Corp. and the Alaska Air Carriers Association have simultaneously been developing separate apprenticeship programs.

While the Air Carriers’ industry of focus is pretty self-explanatory, Calista’s efforts are geared toward one of Alaska’s oldest industries: the maritime trades.

USDA pumped $2.1B into state in last 8 years

A small federal office has quietly injected more than $2.1 billion into Alaska over the past eight years with almost no impact to the national debt.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of Rural Development has done that through its 35 programs that help fund everything from water and sewer systems in the most remote villages in Alaska to startup businesses in every corner of the state.

State sues feds over predator control restrictions

The State of Alaska has taken the Obama administration to court one last time.

State attorneys filed a lawsuit against outgoing Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and U.S. Fish and Wildlife and National Park Service leaders Jan. 13, contending new regulations limiting predator control on federal wildlife refuge lands unlawfully step on state management authority.

Delegation revs up for another ANWR fight

Alaska’s congressional delegation is hoping the 13th time will be the lucky one for legislation to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and natural gas development.

That’s because — as he is quick to note — Rep. Don Young has successfully shepherded such bills through the House 12 times before, only to see them falter time and again before becoming law.

Only once has a bill opening ANWR reached a president’s desk, and it was vetoed by President Bill Clinton in 1996.

ConocoPhillips announces big find on North Slope

ConocoPhillips has a new 300 million-barrel oil discovery in the federal National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, the company’s Alaska President Joe Marushack said Friday morning.

The Willow discovery, as the company has dubbed it, is the result of two exploration wells drilled within the Greater Mooses Tooth Unit about 28 miles west of ConocoPhillips’ central Alpine field facilities last winter.

While still an early stage find, Willow could produce up to 100,000 barrels per day of light oil, according to Marushack.

Silver, gold production steady in Southeast

The metal mines of Southeast Alaska had consistent and positive production in 2016, according to year-end results released by the operating companies.

Hecla Mining Co. reported Jan. 10 that its Greens Creek underground, primarily silver mine on Admiralty Island west of Juneau produced 9.3 million ounces of silver during the year, the highest production level since the company took full ownership of the mine in 2008.

State, Doyon, miners opposed to Eastern Interior plan

The State of Alaska and mining proponents are once again at odds with Bureau of Land Management; this time the dispute is over the agency’s updated plan to manage 6.5 million acres of federal lands in Eastern Alaska.

On Jan. 5 BLM released the decision documents to its Eastern Interior Resource Management Plan that would keep approximately 4.8 million federal acres off-limits to development, namely mining in the region known for gold production.

Study: New North Pacific fleet would cost $11.6B

Rejuvenating Alaska’s large vessel fishing fleet could be nearly an $11 billion boon for Outside shipyards, according to a new McDowell Group report.

The Alaska-based research firm pegged $11.3 billion as the cost to completely replace the 414 fishing and processing vessels longer than 58 feet that participate in North Pacific fisheries off the coast of Alaska in a study commissioned by the Port of Seattle and the Washington Maritime Federation.

Water bill requires fresh look at Arctic port

A small clause in the nation’s most recent water resources and funding bill could breathe new life into plans for a large vessel port in Western Alaska.

The Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama shortly before the holidays, directs U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials to add national security interests to the list of reasons why the country should possibly add to the limited maritime infrastructure around Nome.

Labor Dept.: Oil industry will top job losses again in ‘17

Alaska’s economy is going to get worse before it gets better, state economists predict.

The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development is projecting the state will lose another 7,500 jobs this year after shedding about 6,800 in 2016. Job losses in the 7,500 range would be about 2.3 percent of the state’s workforce. The losses in 2016 were about 2 percent employment contraction.

The figures are found in the annual employment forecast released Thursday morning as part of the Labor Department’s monthly Alaska Economic Trends publication.

AIDEA agrees to sell Pentex to Fairbanks utility

Pentex Alaska Natural Gas Co. is close to changing hands for the second time in less than two years in an effort to shepherd along the struggling Interior Energy Project.

The Fairbanks North Star Borough-owned Interior Gas Utility has a preliminary $58.2 million agreement in place with the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority to purchase the parent company to Fairbanks Natural Gas and holder of the Titan LNG plant on Point MacKenzie in Southcentral.

Sullivan hopeful heading into 2017

Like all members of Congress, Sen. Dan Sullivan has a long list of to-dos. Tops on that list right now is an issue he’s outwardly excited about tackling nearly as soon as the new Congress gavels in Jan. 3.

“The economy, the economy, the economy,” he said.

Watching prices, production, exploration and Alaska LNG

2017 will start with hope in Alaska’s oil industry as prices continue to inch towards $60 per barrel. But come Jan. 2, where prices will go is anyone’s guess.

State government and industry both hope OPEC’s deal to cut production by 1.4 million barrels daily has teeth and can keep prices on the recent upward trend.

State's new method leads to lower production forecast

There is good news and bad news when it comes to the State of Alaska’s closely monitored oil production forecasts.

A new method should mean more accurate forecasts; but future production estimates will likely be lower as a result, according to the state officials compiling the data.

The Department of Revenue used to farm out the semi-annual oil production forecasts published early each spring and late each fall to an outside consultant.


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