The Alaska Arctic contains enough untapped oil and natural gas to power nearly every domestic flight for 120 years and heat every American home for nearly 34 years. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) estimates that there are 35 trillion cubic feet of natural gas on Alaska’s North Slope, and more than 132 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in Alaska’s Outer Continental Shelf. Put differently, Alaska is resource rich!
|The Alaska LNG Project is an attempt to get Alaska’s North Slope natural gas to market. More than just a pipeline, it would be one of the largest and most complex projects in the world. Initial cost estimates are $45 billion to $65 billion.|
The Alaska LNG project is made up of three mega-projects:
|A gas treatment plant and transmission lines connecting to gas fields on the North Slope||An 800-mile pipeline stretching from the North Slope to Nikiski, about 170 miles from Anchorage||A gas liquefaction plant and export terminal in Nikiski|
The partners in Alaska LNG – BP, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and the State of Alaska – own about 99 percent of known North Slope gas. Prudhoe Bay and Point Thomson serve as the “anchors” for the project, with known gas reserves and developed infrastructure. In fact, as the gas comes up from wells with oil at Prudhoe Bay, operators for years have been re-injecting it back into the wells to push more oil up.
- Gas treatment plant: After natural gas is pulled from the ground, it needs to be stripped of impurities, such as acid gasses and carbon dioxide, and cooled through propane refrigeration. The gas treatment plant will have the capacity to hold about 3.3 billion cubic feet (bc) per day at peak winter rate.
- 800-mile pipeline: The pipeline will leave the gas treatment plant and run along the same route as the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) from the North Slope to Livengood, just north of Fairbanks. Because natural gas must stay cooler than oil, the pipeline will be buried for most of the route as it heads south towards the Cook Inlet. Along the way, there will be eight compressor stations to provide pressure to keep the gas moving. There are also plans for up to five off-take points to provide natural gas to communities in Alaska. Once the pipeline reaches the north side of Cook Inlet, a subsea pipeline will be installed to carry the gas to the liquefaction plant in Nikiski.
- Nikiski was selected as the site of the LNG plant facility after review of 22 communities, including Point MacKenzie, Valdez, and Seward, assessing 67 factors, such as marine terminal operations, water depth, and civil construction needs.
- Liquefaction plant and export facility: The point of liquefaction is to shrink gas to a manageable, and shippable, size. When gas is chilled to -260° F and becomes liquid, it is 600 times smaller than its original size. The liquefaction process also clears out any remaining carbon dioxide in the gas so that it is ready for shipment. Tankers will be filled with the liquefied gas and are expected to be sent to Asian markets, where the demand for energy is high. At peak production, it is expected that 15-20 tankers each month will leave the Nikiski facility to head to Asia.
|The project is currently in what is called “pre-FEED,” or pre-Front End Engineering and Design. In this stage, the partners are designing preliminary engineering plans to finalize concepts, and establishing business and financial agreements.
More than $240 million has been spent on the project so far. Land has been purchased in Nikiski. Pipeline design and testing is underway. The project team has had three successful summer field seasons, with more than 200 people working each year to collect and analyze environmental, cultural, and social data needed to support permit filings. The project team has filed more than 10,000 pages of regulatory paperwork with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and has been granted two preliminary export licenses by the U.S. Department of Energy.
The partners each voted in December 2015 to fund the project through 2016, which should see the project through most of the pre-FEED stage. A decision to move into the FEED stage will likely occur in late spring 2017.
Design and construction of the pipeline is expected to employ 9,000 – 15,000 people; with another 1,000 employed for long-term operations.
See an overview of the project: