Tim Bradner

A busy summer ahead for AK LNG

It will be a busy summer for work on the Alaska LNG Project.

Engineering and environmental teams are at work, aiming to complete a $500 million pre-Front End Engineering and Design, or pre-FEED, study by later this year. This will include a revised cost estimate, currently about $45 billion to $65 billion, for the project that would transport North Slope gas for state use and exports through an 800-mile pipeline to Nikiski.

Haul road to reopen after limited impact to Slope operations

The Dalton Highway is scheduled to reopen June 5, with the completion of repairs to flood damage, said Meadow Bailey, spokeswomen for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.

The highway is a vital supply link to North Slope producing fields that has been closed for an extended period due to flooding of the Sagavanirktok River near northern end of the road at Deadhorse.

With truck supply cut off, field operators are flying ultra-low sulfur diesel and other fuel to the Slope along with other vital supplies.

CD-5 production to begin in December

In what is likely the final action in a lengthy environmental lawsuit against ConocoPhillips’ CD-5 project on the North Slope, U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason denied the plaintiff’s final motion for a summary judgment to invalidate the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Record of Decision and permits for the project.

The suit was filed in 2013 by several residents of Nuiqsut, a nearby Inupiat village. The project itself, a satellite of the producing Alpine oil field near the Colville River, has been under construction since 2013 and is nearing completion.

Shell to move rig despite conflict with City of Seattle

Message from Foss Maritime Corp. and Shell to Seattle Mayor Ed Murray: Shove it.

At the urging of environmental groups, Murray is attempting to block Shell and its support contractor, Foss Maritime, from using the Port of Seattle.

Murray told the port May 4 it must obtain a special permit from the city to allow the semi-submersible Polar Pioneer, which has been hired by Shell, to be docked at Terminal 5 at the port.

Shell wins injunction against Greenpeace

Shell made a big step forward May 11 in its quest to explore in the Chukchi Sea. The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management conditionally approved the company’s exploration plans, filed earlier this year, for federal Outer Continental Shelf leases Shell bid on in a 2008 federal lease sale.

Since then the company has been able to drill two partly-completed wells in 2012, one in the Chukchi Sea and one in the Beaufort Sea, and has spent about $6 billion so far on its Arctic program.

Sullivan tapped for oversight of Pacific force rebalancing

Alaska U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan has been tasked by Senate Armed Services Committee chairman John McCain to be the committee’s point person on oversight of the Pentagon’s Pacific “rebalancing” of U.S. forces, being done to counter potential North Korean aggression, an expanding Chinese military presence and Russia’s own rebalancing of forces to the Arctic.

Sullivan wastes no opportunity to remind top Pentagon brass that reinforcing the U.S. presence in the Pacific doesn’t make sense if the Army pulls troops out of Alaska.

Gridlock stiffens over budget

It seems inconceivable that a state government endowed with billions of dollars in liquid assets must develop contingency plans for state agencies running out of cash shortly after the new fiscal year begins July 1.

But that is just what the departments of Revenue and Administration are doing, just in case the political gridlock over funding the state’s fiscal year 2016 budget isn’t ended.

AIDEA approves $30M deal for Cosmo development

The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority has given approval for a $30-million financing package that will allow BlueCrest Energy to begin drilling and development at its Cosmopolitan offshore oil project in Cook Inlet.

BlueCrest will have construction of onshore facilities underway in late summer and drilling started near the first of next year, company President Benjamin Johnson said.

SBA honor is an award for Ketchikan

Renee Schofield, owner and CEO of Ketchikan’s TSS Inc., has won the Small Business Administration’s Small Business Person of the Year award for Alaska in 2015.

The award is really for Ketchikan, Scofield said.

“This isn’t about me. It’s about a community that has raised a business,” she said.

Schofield’s business, which is in drug testing and safety counseling, is still small. She has 13 employees in six locations, three of them outside Alaska.

Modest bidding for 7 Cook Inlet leases at areawide sale

Bidding was modest in the state’s annual Cook Inlet areawide lease sale held May 7, a symptom of low crude oil prices and a limited regional market for natural gas.

The state Division of Oil and Gas auctioned seven oil and gas leases May 7 to three companies. Hilcorp Energy LLC and AIX Energy LLC, two producers in the region, bid on and were awarded tracts along with Woodstone Resources LLC, a small independent company based in Texas.

Legislature strips funds for gasline

After a session spent dueling with Gov. Bill Walker over his plan to spend $85 million in state funds to increase the size of a state-led natural gas pipeline, and Walker’s veto of a bill stopping him from spending the money, the Legislature may have gotten the final word.

In their final budget action before adjourning April 27, lawmakers took the money away from the governor.

REI advances work for Port MacKenzie LNG

A critical action-item for Resource Energy Inc., or REI, is getting engineering and design work underway this year for its planned 1-million-ton per year liquefied natural gas project at Port MacKenzie, in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough across Knik Arm from Anchorage.

REI also hopes to initiate its pre-application process with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission later this year, the company’s Alaska manager Mary Ann Pease told Commonwealth North’s energy working group April 24.

Commonwealth North is an Anchorage-based public policy group.

Judge extends TRO after hearing on Greenpeace injunction

Shell’s court battle to obtain a preliminary injunction against Greenpeace USA continued in U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason’s court in Anchorage April 28.

Gleason is considering whether to issue an order that would keep Greenpeace protestors at a certain distance from vessels Shell hopes to use for its 2015 Arctic offshore drilling.

Finance Committee defends cuts amid bleak budget

The budget crisis the state of Alaska is facing is not understood by the public, state Senate leaders said April 21. The state is facing budget deficits approaching $4 billion a year with the prospect that Alaska’s main cash reserves will be drained in two years.

Medicaid fight expands as session nears end

JUNEAU — Medicaid has quickly become one of the explosive issues of the 2015 legislative session. For several weeks House and Senate committees have been grinding through details of ways the program can be reformed to reduce costs.

Those costs are running at $1.8 billion per year, half of it paid with state funds.

Gov. Bill Walker has meanwhile been pressing hard for expansion of Medicaid to cover more low-income Alaskans. That’s allowed under the federal Affordable Care Act, and the federal government will pick up the bulk of the costs of expansion, the governor says.

Walker outlines gas pipeline plans in letter to lawmakers

JUNEAU — Gov. Bill Walker says he can do the engineering for a scale-up for a state-led natural gas pipeline for $85 million and have the work done within a year. That’s in time to have it ready in case the state’s industry partners in the larger Alaska LNG Project decided not to proceed to final engineering in 2016.

The state is now a 25 percent partner in the larger project in a partnership with North Slope producers BP, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil, along with pipeline company TransCanada.

Sparks set to fly over gasline and budgets

JUNEAU — It may be a wild finish for the 2015 legislative session. Things could really blow up, in fact.

Lawmakers are set to finish at midnight on April 19, the 90th day and the required adjournment date under state law, but last-minute tangles could push the ending into Monday or beyond.

That happened last year when the Legislature went in overtime for several days to work out problems on school funding. The absolute limit is 120 days, required by the state Constitution.

There are plenty of things that may cause a blow up on April 19.

Repsol to file for permits, nearing final decision

Spanish major Repsol may be close to revealing what it has found in the Colville River delta on the North Slope. The company made discoveries in exploration wells drilled in 2012 and has been working to delineate and test the discoveries since then.

The company is still not releasing details of oil reserve estimates or expected flow rates but is moving step-by-step toward a decision on development.

House Finance digs into details of Medicaid expansion

The House Finance Committee dug into Gov. Bill Walker’s plan to expand Medicaid for several days beginning April 7.

Committee co-chair Rep. Mark Neuman, R-Big Lake, cleared the committee’s agenda of most bills so its members could focus on House Bill 148, which makes cost-cutting reforms in the state-managed Medicaid program as well as expanding it.

The bill was reported out of the House Health and Social Services Committee April 1 with changes that strengthened the reform parts of the bill.

With clock ticking, major issues yet to be resolved

A collision is shaping up between legislators and Gov. Bill Walker over the governor’s vision of a large state-led gas pipeline.

The state Senate passed a House bill March 31 that clips the governor’s wings in spending money on a large state-led gas pipeline that could compete with the ongoing Alaska LNG Project involving the three major producers, pipeline company TransCanada and the state as a 25 percent partner.


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