Headlamp – IGU to buy Pentex; NPR-A and ANWR

Let’s get this show on the road. Should an Alaska state agency be allowed to build a 211-mile road into the wilds of the Brooks Range to enable mine development in a remote part of the Arctic? That’s the question a multiagency environmental review is asking of a controversial proposal to build the Ambler Mining District Industrial Access Project, which could open commercial opportunities for mining of copper and other mineral deposits in a now-roadless part of northwestern Alaska. The process is protracted. A draft environmental impact statement is expected in March of 2019, with a record of decision expected in January of 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the lead agency for the review.

NPR-A: a “hotbed of oil exploration!” Even as the U.S. Senate moves to allow oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), the real action is 150 miles (241 km) west, where industry proponents hope a coming sale of 10 million acres of land will revitalize the state’s sagging crude production. The Trump administration, through the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, will auction off 10 million acres on Wednesday in the National Petroleum Reserve (NPR-A), a hotbed of oil exploration and development in the western part of Alaska’s North Slope. The planned sale has encouraged the oil industry while angering environmental groups. It would be the largest amount of land offered in a single lease sale there. The last sale of 1.45 million acres in 2016 netted $18.8 million, according to the U.S. Interior Department.

Tokyo Gas and the LIO. The state gas line corporation has signed an agreement with Tokyo Gas that makes it a potential buyer of Alaska gas, adding enthusiasm to the state’s plans to develop a $43 billion gas project with help from the Chinese. Keith Meyer, president of the Alaska Gasline Development Corp., said Monday the agency had signed the nonbinding “letter of intent” with the company in Tokyo earlier in the day. The agreement expresses Tokyo Gas’ interest in buying liquefied natural gas from the proposed Alaska LNG project, Meyer said. The large Japanese utility also has the opportunity to explore other ways to support the Alaska LNG project, which is currently looking for investment partners. The megaproject, requiring the building of massive facilities including an 800-mile pipeline, lacks funding for construction. It isn’t expected to begin production until at least 2024, if it’s ever built.

IGU moves forward. The Interior Gas Utility voted 5-2 on Tuesday night to proceed with the purchase of Pentex Natural Gas Company for about $60 million, a critical step in a long — and at times contentious — battle to bring natural gas to Interior Alaska. Tuesday’s vote authorizes IGU General Manager Jomo Stewart to execute a purchase and sales agreement and a finance agreement with the seller, Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority. On Thursday, AIDEA will hold its own vote to approve or deny the sale. Stewart said the sale would put IGU “within striking distance of our goal” of $15 per thousand cubic feet of gas (MCF). He said a three-year contract to purchase gas occasionally suffers from bad optics, but makes finding cheaper gas easier than a long-term contract would.

From the Washington Examiner’s Daily on Energy:

REFINERS SCRAMBLE AHEAD OF WHITE HOUSE MEETING ON ETHANOL: Refiners are gearing up for what could be a major showdown at the White House Thursday over the future of corn ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard.
Sen. Ted Cruz will be sitting down with Trump and members of his Cabinet to discuss his administration’s decision not to curtail the RFS, and continue support of blending high amounts of corn ethanol in the nation’s gasoline supply, while supporting soybean diesel and other more advanced fuels derived from crop waste.
Sources with large refiners said they are scrambling in preparations for the meeting, which is likely to include an industry component in addition to EPA and Agriculture Department officials and other high-level White House advisers. Cruz led a group of senators in sending a letter to Trump urging a meeting when it became apparent that the administration was scrapping proposed reductions in the RFS’ annual targets that refiners are required to abide by.
Independent refiners complain that the cost of complying with the RFS would force them to lay off workers if they are not provided some kind of relief in meeting the standard. EPA set the 2018 goals last week with no changes to the annual targets, while rejecting refiners’ request to significantly change the program to free them from having to abide by the requirements.
RFS ‘has failed to deliver:’ The free-market think tank American Enterprise Institute issued a report Wednesday ahead of the White House meeting listing the shortcomings of the RFS and is holding a briefing ahead of the meeting.
“The main potential benefits to society from the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) stemmed from potential reductions in greenhouse gas emissions due to increased biofuel and decreased fossil fuel use. The policy has failed to deliver these benefits,” according to the report’s summary.

First Reads:

The environmental review process is beginning for a controversial new road in Alaska’s Arctic
Arctic Now, Yereth Rosen, December 6, 2017

While U.S. Senate pushes Alaska wildlife refuge drilling, industry looks elsewhere
Reuters, Yereth Rosen, December 5, 2017

State signs deal with Tokyo Gas as it seeks buyers for Alaska LNG
Alaska Dispatch News, Alex DeMarban, December 5, 2017

Interior Gas Utility approves Pentex purchase
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Robin Wood, December 6, 2017