Do we make up or break up? For the last two months, the state’s gasline corporation has asked potential customers and investors in the state-led project to formally show interest in the massive pipeline project, without being bound by a contract. It’s called an open season, and it has been a chance for the state to get an idea of just how much the global market wants Alaska’s gas. And while the state corporation and the governor are optimistic, some lawmakers aren’t sure there has been enough interest to continue pouring state money into the $45 billion project. Last year, Gov. Bill Walker told a reporter at the Alaska Dispatch News that he would give the state-run LNG pipeline project a year to find its footing and a market for the state’s North Slope gas reserves. Headlamp would note that Friday, September 1st was the deadline. Where do we go from here?
EPA takes it away. The Environmental Protection Agency has taken the unusual step of putting a political operative in charge of vetting the hundreds of millions of dollars in grants the EPA distributes annually, assigning final funding decisions to a former Trump campaign aide with little environmental policy experience. In this role, John Konkus reviews every award the agency gives out, along with every grant solicitation before it is issued. According to both career and political employees, Konkus has told staff that he is on the lookout for “the double C-word” — climate change — and repeatedly has instructed grant officers to eliminate references to the subject in solicitations. Konkus, who officially works in the EPA’s public affairs office, has canceled close to $2 million competitively awarded grants to universities and nonprofit organizations. Although his review has primarily affected Obama administration priorities, it is the heavily Republican state of Alaska that has undergone the most scrutiny so far. Headlamp would certainly hope that ENGO’s who have previously received “grants” from the EPA and used the funds to advocate against jobs in Alaska are on the list.
Armstrong poised to add 120,000 barrels of oil. An independent oil company has made ambitious plans to produce oil from one of the three large discoveries that explorers have made in recent years on Alaska’s North Slope. Now, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is taking comments on the project, which includes filling some federally protected wetlands. Denver-based Armstrong Oil and Gas wants to drill up to 146 production and injection wells at its Pikka field, producing up to 120,000 barrels of oil daily, according to a permit application filed with the Corps. The field could be Alaska’s biggest oil producer since ConocoPhillips’ Alpine development began producing oil 17 years ago. Peak production there reached 139,000 barrels of oil daily, in 2007.
Tesla needs Alaska Miners. Morgan Stanley predicts more than 1B electric vehicles will be on the road by 2050, and Tesla’s success is a major reason why after showing that “the consumer preference for internal combustion engines can be swayed.” “The Tesla Model S has taken a 30% share in the $100K-plus U.S. luxury market, and with over 400,000 orders in less than a month after initial launch, the Tesla Model 3 launch also suggests there is plenty of consumer demand for the right electric vehicle product at the right price,” Stanley analysts write.
UAF leads nation with clean coal example. The nation’s only coal-fired power plant currently under construction is being built at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, a distinction that highlights the steep challenges facing the coal industry in Alaska and nationally — even as President Donald Trump fights to revive it. The small, $245 million effort, set for completion in late 2018, will replace the university’s old and troublesome coal-fired boilers with a cleaner-burning system that provides heat and power campus-wide. It will make a potentially catastrophic midwinter shutdown far less likely than the old plant, university officials say. And it will reduce emissions of air pollutants, including climate-altering carbon and the fine particulates that have pushed Fairbanks air pollution past federal health levels.
Seismic data goes public. The state is planning to release a trove of seismic data from oil exploration surveys as early as mid-September that cost many millions of dollars to collect in an unusual step aimed at attracting new exploration on the North Slope. The release of the seven seismic reports, associated primarily with past North Slope exploration, is required for projects that benefited from Alaska tax credits. The requirement was created in 2003, but seismic information can’t be released under the program until 10 years have passed since its collection.
An ounce of prevention…In late July, the Aqua-Guard Triton RotoX dipped into the icy Beaufort Sea. The goal was to test whether the prototype could clean up an oil spill in the Arctic. The oil skimmer, which was remotely controlled from the deck of the icebreaker Coast Guard Cutter Healy, is one of many technologies being examined by the U.S. Coast Guard’s research and development program. The Canadian-designed RotoX was made to skim oil off Arctic water littered by broken sea ice — the very problem that environmental groups say should preclude oil development in offshore Alaska. The test comes as Arctic waters become clear of ice because of climate change. As the region warms faster than any other in the world, different industries — from oil production to defense to tourism — are eyeing the newly accessible seaways.
No NAFTA? No way! As NAFTA negotiations resume Friday, oil industry leaders are desperate to preserve the 23-year-old trade deal that drove a North American oil and gas renaissance and paved the way for $34 billion worth of energy exports to Canada and Mexico last year. “Any changes that disrupt energy trade across our North American borders, reduce investment protection or revert to high tariffs and trade barriers that preceded NAFTA could put at risk the tens of millions of jobs,” said the top oil and gas trade groups from the U.S., Canada and Mexico in a joint position paper released last month.
Energy dominance without Alaska LNG? The Energy Department is proposing to streamline the approval process for companies that want to carry out “small-scale” exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG). Under a proposal published Friday in the Federal Register, companies would get automatic approval of gas export applications as long as the proposed exports are 140 million cubic feet per day or less and the Energy Department does not need to do an extensive environmental review. The proposal comes as the Trump administration seeks to ramp up exports of fossil fuels produced in the United States under President Trump’s “energy dominance” agenda.
As the state’s gasline corporation hopes for investment interest, lawmakers look for answers
Alaska Public Media, Rashah McChesney, September 1, 2017
EPA now requires political aide’s sign-off for agency awards, grant applications
The Washington Post, Juliet Eilperin, September 4, 2017
Corps taking comments on big North Slope project proposing 146 wells
Alaska Dispatch News, Alex DeMarban, September 3, 2017
Oil field data worth millions of dollars is about to be made public
Alaska Dispatch News, Alex DeMarban, September 4, 2017
Tesla’s success one reason Morgan Stanley foresees 1B electric cars by 2050
Seeking Alpha, Carl Surran, September 1, 2017
There’s only one coal plant being built in the nation, and it’s at UAF
Alaska Dispatch News, Alex DeMarban, September 4, 2017
Coast Guard tests new oil spill technology as Arctic waters open up
Alaska Dispatch News, Kelsey Lindsey, September 3, 2017
Oil Firms That Cheered Regulatory Cuts Are Quaking on Nafta
Bloomberg, Jennifer Dlouhy, September 1, 2017
Energy Department wants to speed ‘small-scale’ natural gas exports
The Hill, Timothy Cama, September 1, 2017
Alaska uses Exxon Valdez settlement funds to preserve land
The Associated Press, September 2, 2017