Tim Bradner

Heinze steps down at ANGDA; group's future is uncertain

Harold Heinze announced his resignation as chief executive officer of the Alaska Natural Gas Development Authority, Nov. 21, marking an important transition not only for Heinze, who has had several careers in the state, but also for the independent state gas corporation.

Heinze doesn’t leave the job until Jan. 23 to allow for transition. He will be working to help Matanuska Electric Association develop its planned new gas-fired power generation plant. Still, there is a lot of uncertainty about a replacement and also the future of ANGDA.

Buccaneer looking for markets for Cook Inlet gas

Australia-based Buccaneer Energy is working with a Houston-based consulting group on plans for regional sales of liquefied natural gas within Alaska, an indication that companies now exploring for gas in Cook Inlet are concerned that a gas surplus might develop.

Buccaneer discovered gas earlier this year in an onshore exploration well drilled on the Kenai Peninsula, and will begin sales of gas in December to Enstar Natural Gas Co., according to James Watt, president of Buccaneer Alaska.

Health care employment booms in state, expert panel says

Employment in health services has leaped in Alaska over the last two decades and shows no signs of a slowdown, a panel of state officials told the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce Nov. 28.

What’s driving the increase isn’t entirely clear, although the gradual aging of the state’s population is one explanation, the panel said.

About $7.5 billion was spent on health care in Alaska in 2010, and employment in the industry reached 31,800, said Pat Carr, with state Department of Health and Social Services. Carr was one of three state officials on the panel.

Minerals industry spending jumped in 2010, state report says

Alaska miners crowded into the Anchorage Sheraton Hotel the week of Nov. 7 for the annual Alaska Miners Association convention. It was a record-breaking attendance that may have neared 1,000 people in and out of the meeting over three days of the main conference, held Nov. 9 through Nov. 11.

Much of the agenda at the miners’ annual conference is traditionally devoted to technical presentations on geology, environmental procedures and new government regulations, but with metals prices at high levels the mood was confident and upbeat.

Second jack-up rig to explore in Cook Inlet by next April

There will be a second jack-up rig exploring for oil and gas in Cook Inlet by next April, this one owned about one-third by the state of Alaska.

The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, a state corporation, finalized an agreement Nov. 14 to invest $27 million in the purchase of the Adriatic XI jack-up rig along with two partners, Australia-based Buccaneer Energy and Ezion Holdings Ltd. of Singapore, the chairman of the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority said in a press release.

Slope producers: Decline will continue without tax reform

North Slope producer BP delivered a tough message Nov. 16 to several hundred business and community leaders at the Resource Development Council Conference in Anchorage.

Claire Fitzpatrick, BP’s chief financial officer for Alaska, said her company is expecting a 7 percent to 8 percent decline in annual production in the Alaskan fields it operates, which amounts to two-thirds of total Slope production.

She also warned that Trans Alaska Pipeline System throughput could drop to the 550,000 barrels-per-day range this winter.

Study looks at road and rail for Ambler mine area

The state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities has released a preliminary study of routes and costs for a road into the mineral-rich Ambler Mining District of Northwest Alaska.

NovaGold Resources and several other minerals companies have discovered significant metals deposits in the area.

NANA Regional Corp. of Kotzebue, a major landowner in the area, has teamed up with NovaGold to jointly explore and possibly develop the Arctic and Bornite discoveries, which are owned by NovaGold and NANA, respectively.

NANA and NovaGold sign joint venture

A long-anticipated agreement on minerals exploration in Northwest Alaska has been signed.

NovaGold Resources Inc. of Vancouver, British Columbia, and NANA Regional Corp., the Kotezbue-based Alaska Native regional corporation, have agreed to jointly explore and develop base metals discoveries on lands held by NANA at Bornite, on the upper Kobuk River east of Kotzebue, and by NovaGold in the Ambler Mining District, which is farther east but nearby.

Parnell wants to take a new look at LNG

The gas pipeline plan may be shifting from Canada to an LNG project in southern Alaska. Gov. Sean Parnell called on North Slope producers and TransCanada Corp. to reexmine the LNG option in light of low gas prices in the Lower 48 states and the buildup of gas supply from shale gas producers.

State delays Slope lease sale, hoping to add acreage

The state will delay a North Slope lease sale planned for Oct. 26 for a few weeks with hopes that more acreage can be added and more companies can be enticed to bid for leases.

A new date for the sale will be announced very soon, state Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan said. It is expected that it will be held in December, however.

Shell's Alaska investment nears $4 billion, more confident on exploration

Shell Oil’s investment in its Arctic offshore exploration will reach the $4 billion threshold sometime this fall, but the company is now more optimistic than ever that it will receive the needed permits to do exploration drilling in 2012.

The company will make a “go or no-go” decision at the end of October, Shell vice president Pete Slaiby told the Alaska Support Industry Alliance Sept. 8, but the company is now more confident and has started the mobilization of a fleet of 24 support vessels that will be needed in addition to two large drilling vessels.

Revitalizing downtown Fairbanks

FAIRBANKS — Local business and city leaders are working to get more people in downtown Fairbanks, back to the Interior city's core business district and the center of its history. Like a lot of small cities across the nation, the big malls in outlying areas has drawn shoppers away and downtown retailers have dwindled in number.

The city's only remaining downtown quality men's clothing store, Carrs Clothing, is bravely hanging in there, along with another clothing retailer, Big Ray's, which specializes in work and cold weather clothing.

Alaska enters into budding world market

When you think of exports from Alaska, fish, lumber and zinc come to mind.

Fresh cut flowers wouldn’t be on the list.

They soon will be, though.

A niche industry is developing fast in growing and selling fresh-cut peonies, those blossoms much in demand and beloved, world-wide it turns out, for weddings. It’s a small business so far but it’s growing, and there seems to be an insatiable market demand at a certain, critical time of the year.

Livengood mine a big boost to Fairbanks area

A possible $1 billion new gold mine north of Fairbanks will be a big shot in the arm for Interior Alaska’s economy, if it proceeds.

International Tower Hills’ gold exploration project in Livengood, 70 miles north of Fairbanks, would provide a lot of new jobs and business for suppliers and service companies, if it moves forward. It would be larger than Fort Knox, another gold mine northeast of Fairbanks that is now producing.

State O&G division scolds Escopeta

 

Escopeta Oil and Gas Co. is negotiating a possible fine with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security over a violation of the U.S. Jones Act that occurred when the company moved the Spartan Drilling Co. Blake 151 jack-up rig recently from the U.S. Gulf Coast to Cook Inlet.

“There are discussions under way but nothing has been determined,” Escopeta spokesman Steve Sutherlin said.

The Blake 151 is now being prepared for final state inspections by the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, Sutherlin said. Drilling is expected to begin within days.

No magic method for controlling rising state Medicaid budget

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Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Bill Streur.
Photo courtesy of the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services
   

State officials and legislators are working to contain spiraling health care costs in the state budget. There’s no magic method they’re finding.

New tax-free financing available for business expansions

State officials are working to get the word out about new low-cost financing for business expansion and local economic development projects.

"We want to make sure Alaskan businesses will be able to use all of this financing that is available," said Ted Leonard, executive director of the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, an independent state development corporation.

Next few weeks critical to health care, climate change legislation

The next few weeks will tell the tale on the push for health care reform in Congress and on climate change legislation, another issue of vital concern to Alaskans.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, says that if health care reform gets bogged down in extended debate, Congress may not have the time, or stomach, to take on another gut-wrenching bill, like climate change, this year.

Murkowski’s concern is that the cap-and-trade climate change bill passed in haste by the U.S. House, which is now in the Senate, would impose huge costs on Alaskans.

AIDEA, Golden Valley take next step in Healy plant sale

The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority’s board approved a draft agreement Feb. 13 to sell the mothballed Healy Clean Coal Project to Golden Valley Electric Association in Fairbanks. Golden Valley and AIDEA staff have worked for several weeks to flesh out the sales agreement, the authority’s executive director, Ted Leonard, told the board.

February 17, 2009 - Week in review

Several bills were active in legislative committees in Juneau last week as the 2009 session slowly gathered momentum. Hearings were held on bills to change the state’s coastal management program, to increase the state’s minimum wage and to impose "price-gouging" penalties on Alaska refineries selling gasoline.

These particular proposals are being pushed by Democrats, who have clout in the Legislature by virtue of a coalition organization in the state Senate that puts Democrats in positions to advance their proposals.

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