Alaska Railroad gets LNG approval

The Alaska Railroad Corp. has approval to be the first railroad in the country to transport liquefied natural gas.

The Federal Railroad Administration granted the Alaska Railroad’s application to haul LNG in a letter dated Oct. 9 to the state-owned rail company.

The Alaska Railroad submitted its request Nov. 14, 2014.

Currently, LNG is not hauled by rail anywhere in the country.

The letter could spell good news for Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority’s Interior Energy Project, which is searching for the least expensive way to get natural gas to Interior residents and businesses. LNG, like any other bulk commodity, could potentially be transported from Southcentral to the Interior by rail in a much more cost-effective manner than by truck, the other primary option.

AIDEA officials recently selected plans to haul either imported or domestic LNG north by rail as finalists among others in the latest Interior Energy Project effort.

If the Alaska Railroad begins hauling LNG it must report the activity to the Federal Railroad Administration each month.

The railroad is also limited to two LNG trains per week carrying a maximum of eight, 11,000-gallon LNG containers.

Alaska Railroad spokesman Tim Sullivan said the railroad is “happy about this being a good first step” towards moving LNG on its tracks.

Before Alaska LNG is moved by rail, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough’s 32-mile Port MacKenzie rail spur will likely have to be finished as well. Several companies have pegged Port MacKenzie — across Knik Arm from Anchorage — and the nearby real estate as a prime area for an LNG plant. However the unfinished rail line connecting the port to the rest of the Railbelt still needs about $120 million to complete it during a time of severe budget tightening for the state.

Elwood Brehmer can be reached at [email protected].

Updated: 
11/24/2016 - 2:35pm