The Joint Committee on Natural Gas Pipelines, chaired by Sen. John Torgerson, R-Kasilof, wrapped up two days of hearings in Kenai Nov. 8. The purpose of the meetings was to evaluate the supply and demand for natural gas in Cook Inlet."Natural gas will run out in Cook Inlet, and we need more to come here from different areas," Torgerson said. "All agree that if there are no changes, and we go full speed ahead, by 2015 we’ll be dry."He said if new discoveries in Cook Inlet are brought on line, the reserves could be pushed seven to 10 years further out. There are "really wide swings" in what reserves may or may not be out there, he said.Committee member Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, said that for years petroleum companies did not seek gas, only oil. Now that they are looking for gas again, new reserves could be found.No matter how much gas is found in Cook Inlet, it will run out at some point, Torgerson said. The solution is a natural gas pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to Cook Inlet."And the sooner the better," he said. "We can’t go into the future without a plan."A gas pipeline from the North Slope to Nikiski is not the front-runner in the pipeline scramble, but a spur line from either the Alaska Highway or Prudhoe Bay to the Valdez route could be possible."It’s very, very important that natural gas come to the Kenai Peninsula and Cook Inlet basin," Torgerson said.Alaska’s vast natural gas reserves on the North Slope, estimated at more than 35 trillion cubic feet, have lacked markets in the past. But rising demand and declining supplies are likely to make their development feasible before the end of the decade.Torgerson said the Nikiski petrochemical industry would be the first to go if reserves began to dwindle. Two, and soon three, North Road plants depend on natural gas: The Phillips Petroleum Co. creates and ships liquefied natural gas to Japan, while Agrium turns gas into fertilizer. BP’s gas-to-liquid pilot plant will turn gas into synthetic crude oil once it is operational."We certainly don’t want to see our industry shut down, so timing is essential," he said.Tony Izzo, president of Enstar Natural Gas Co., showed slides of the company’s projected demand and supply for the next 15 years. By 2010, if no new natural gas is discovered or brought into Cook Inlet, one slide showed Enstar’s demand outstripping supply more than two-to-one.Enstar purchases its gas under long-term contracts with Marathon Oil Co., Chevron, Municipal Light & Power and Phillips. It has two new contracts, one with Moquakie, comprised of Anadarko and Phillips, which starts Jan. 1. The other with Unocal starts in 2004. The company supplies natural gas to 160,800 homes, Izzo said.A chart he displayed showed the supply of known gas reserves in Cook Inlet falling below Enstar’s average peak demand in 2003 and the average daily demand in 2006, if industrial use were cut in half by 2010."Putting on my Enstar hat, if pushed, I think curtailing industrial use could be considered, but that is the last thing we would like to see," Izzo said.Chris Tworek, vice president of supply management for Agrium, said bringing North Slope gas to Cook Inlet would create more jobs for Alaskans if the company expanded its Nikiski fertilizer plant.Richard Peterson, president of Alaska Natural Gas to Liquids Co., or ANGTL, spoke about transforming North Slope natural gas into synthetic crude and indicated the company would be interested in building a GTL plant in Cook Inlet.He said if the United States really wants to reduce dependence on imported foreign oil, it should look to North Slope GTL, which could add 1 million barrels a day that could be shipped down the trans-Alaska oil pipeline."This can be built in Alaska and provide jobs for Americans," he said.A GTL plant could provide steam, hydrogen and nitrogen to be used as feed stock for fertilizer plants, as well as the synthetic crude for oil refineries.He said the GTL process also can be applied to coal-bed methane, which Alaska and the nation have plenty of. "There is enough coal (methane) reserves in 38 states across the nation to make over 10 million barrels a day of synthetic motor fuels for over 200 years," he said.Mark Sexton, president and chief executive officer of Evergreen Resources of Denver, testified by telephone how his company is poised to drill for coal-bed methane, which he described as nearly identical chemically to natural gas.Sexton said Alaska has half the known coal reserves in the nation, and that the Cook Inlet area possibly holds 200 trillion cubic feet of coal-bed methane. Torgerson estimated that was probably a 1,000-year supply. However, efforts to extract the methane in the Cook Inlet basin have been unsuccessful, he said.In Sexton’s presentation, he described how the company had developed its own technology to extract the gas in Colorado. Torgerson said he was glad to see the company has had success with the technology.Evergreen acquired rights to drill for coal bed methane near Wasilla this year and has sunk several wells.Scott Heyworth, head of an initiative group to promote an all-Alaska natural gas pipeline, wants a line to Valdez where the gas would be turned into LNG for shipment to the Pacific Rim.The plan of the Alaska Natural Gas Development Authority calls for a spur line to supply Cook Inlet electric, heating and industry needs."This plan assures cheap gas to Cook Inlet," Heyworth said. "The Beaufort and highway routes have no provisions."The Beaufort Sea gas line route would ship North Slope natural gas to Canada’s Mackenzie River Delta area where it would then make its way to market. The Alaska Highway route would follow the trans-Alaska oil pipeline to Fairbanks and then follow the highway into Canada."(The all-Alaska route) is the gas line project Alaskans want to see," Heyworth said.