Roads to Resources gets a re-fund. Alaska Gov. Bill Walker said he plans to re-fund the Ambler Road Project to the same point it was funded previously. The project lost its state funding in 2015 when Walker defunded several bond funded construction projects due to budgetary issues. The Ambler Road Project is a proposed 200-mile road that would connect the Ambler Mining District in Northwest Alaska with the Dalton Highway and Fairbanks. In a recent interview with the News-Miner, Walker confirmed that, if his FY19 budget proposal is passed, the project will be funded at the same level. “Our commitment to the Ambler Road was to get it up through the EIS process,” Walker said. “We are going to go ahead and advance that.” The Bureau of Land Management is working on an environmental impact statement for the project, identifying and analyzing concerns associated with the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority’s proposal. The EIS must be complete before the project can move to the permitting phase. The public comment period just ended after months of gathering input.
Groundhog day Part 2: Environmentalists sue to stop development. Two lawsuits filed Friday claim the federal government conducted petroleum lease sales without proper environmental review in a part of northern Alaska known for its wildlife. The Bureau of Land Management on Dec. 14 conducted the largest-ever lease offering within the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, putting out for bid 900 tracts covering 16,100 square miles (41,700 sq. kilometers), roughly the size of New Hampshire and Massachusetts combined. In the first lawsuit, five environmental groups said the BLM relied on an environmental review preceding a 2013 NPR-A management plan for the lease sale. Federal law for lease sales, the lawsuit said, required an updated environmental review of the specific land to be offered in a sale, and how wildlife and habitat would be affected. “The Trump Administration is in such a rush to sell off our public lands to the oil and gas industry that it isn’t even taking the time to comply with the law,” Suzanne Bostrom, an attorney for Trustees for Alaska, an environmental law firm representing the groups, said in a statement. In the second lawsuit, filed by environmental law firm Earthjustice, four other environmental groups claimed 2016 and 2017 lease sales in the reserve were illegal because the Interior Department failed to take a hard look at their effects on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.
Bull or Bear? ConocoPhillips is pretty bullish about oil prospects on the North Slope. The company’s Alaska president, Joe Marushack, told a major business conference in Anchorage last week that he sees a possibility for up to 400,000 barrels a day of new oil coming into the Trans Alaska Pipeline System over the next few years. This would come from new oil projects that companies are working on including three by ConocoPhillips, Marushack said at an Anchorage Economic Development Corp.’s economic forecast luncheon held Feb. 1 at the Dena’ina convention center in Anchorage. Getting new oil into the oil pipeline is important because it is now carrying about 500,000 barrels per day, about one-fourth of its 2 million barrel-per-day design capacity, and if the oil “throughput” in TAPS drops further there would be operating problems, according to Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., the pipeline operator.
Small spill at Valdez Terminal. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation has reported a spill at the Valdez Marine Terminal. KTVA-TV reports that the department says the spill appears to be less than 200 gallons (757 liters) of crude oil from the Alaska North Slope. The spill was discovered Saturday morning by a worker who was doing routine rounds. The department says oil reached the water but “no sheen on water has been observed.” The cause of the spill is under investigation. But the department says the oil might have leaked from loading arms into containment. The department says there’s no impact to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. The department will continue to monitor and clean the area. Skimming vessels have been deployed to the spill site.
China surpassed the United States in annual gross crude oil imports in 2017, importing 8.4 million barrels per day (b/d) compared with 7.9 million b/d for the United States. China had become the world’s largest net importer (imports minus exports) of total petroleum and other liquid fuels in 2013. New refinery capacity and strategic inventory stockpiling combined with declining domestic oil production were the major factors contributing to the recent increase in China’s crude oil imports.
One fish, two fish…Local fishermen and mining companies are picking sides this week over stringent new rules for construction on Alaska salmon habitat. One group did it through letters to a legislator. The other, with paper of a different sort: a $200,000 contribution. The Stand for Salmon initiative and a similar bill known as House Bill 199 establish a new procedure for construction permits on fish habitat issued by Alaska Department of Fish and Game. It’s more complicated than existing permitting, mining companies say, and would be prohibitively expensive for construction projects across the state. But fishermen say they simply want construction done responsibly. Without updates to a decades-old permitting law, commercial salmon fishing is put at risk by large oil, gas and mining projects. Flanked by the group of seven other Juneau fishermen, gillnetter Sommers Cole gave HB 199 a stamp of approval Thursday when he delivered a letter to bill author Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, on behalf of 200 fishermen. About 30 of the signers are Juneau fishermen, Cole told the Empire before his meeting with Stutes at the Capitol.
From today’s Washington Examiner, Daily on Energy:
ANNUAL ENERGY OUTLOOK TO STOKE A FIGHT: The Energy Information Administration is set to release its annual outlook for 2018 Tuesday morning, which is expected to play up the effects of the oil and natural gas revolution, which in turn helps Trump’s energy dominance agenda. But that sort of reporting, even though it is factual, does not sit well with climate change groups who want to see renewable energy advances played up by the federal government over fossil fuels. Ahead of the report’s release, the Post Carbon Institute released a report Monday that looks to poke a hole in the EIA’s “rosy” projections. The report details how the government’s projections are not feasible out to 2050. “There is no doubt that the U.S. can produce substantial amounts of shale gas and tight oil over the short- and medium-term,” said David Hughes, the report’s lead author. “Unrealistic long-term forecasts, however, are a disservice to planning a viable long-term energy strategy. The very high to extremely optimistic EIA projections impart an unjustified level of comfort for long-term energy sustainability.” The EIA outlook will provide projections of U.S. energy supply, demand, and prices. The projections also will include alternative assumptions that take into account changing economic growth rates, domestic energy resources, and other technologies, along with world oil prices.
Walker re-funds Ambler Road Project to EIS process
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Erin Granger, February 5, 2018
Groups sue to overturn Alaska petroleum reserve lease sale
AP News, Dan Joling, February 2, 2018
ConocoPhillips fired up about Alaska prospects in 2018
Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, Tim Bradner, February 3, 2018
Alaska officials report oil spill at Valdez Marine Terminal
AP News, February 5, 2018
China surpassed the United States as the world’s largest crude oil importer in 2017
U.S. Energy Information Administration, February 5, 2018
Local fishermen, mining companies divided over fish habitat
Peninsula Clarion, Kevin Gullufsen, February 4, 2018
Sold to the highest bidder! Andeavor has announced today, that they have acquired the Kenai Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facility from ConocoPhillips. In a statement from Andeavor they stated that they believe this facility is a natural extension of our long-standing operations in the State of Alaska. This acquisition further strengthens our integrated value chain by optimizing our operations in Kenai to provide low-cost fuel for our refinery to produce the fuels that consumers in Alaska need to keep their lives moving. Andeavor will be working to integrate the current employees and operations into the Kenai Refinery facility. In November 2016. ConocoPhillips’ announced that it was putting its Kenai LNG plant up for sale. In July the company announced they would be “scaling back” operations until they acquired an interested buyer for the plant. The Kenai plant, includes a dock and loading facility, was the only export facility of domestic liquefied natural gas in North America for nearly 50 years.
Oilmen, wildcatters, refiners, oh my! Oilmen, wildcatters and particularly refiners are reaping billions in gains from President Donald Trump’s tax overhaul, helping boost the staying power of old-style energy even as the world searches for cleaner fuels. The tax adjustments come as crude prices have rallied 54 percent since June. Together, the price rise and the new tax code have supercharged the oil industry in ways that could test the resolve of money managers who’ve vowed to divest from companies that have powered the world’s economic engines for two centuries. The top four refiners this week reaped $7 billion in gains, led by a $2.7 billion jump announced Friday by the biggest, Phillips 66.
Go big or go home on ANWR. President Donald Trump said Thursday he “really didn’t care” about opening a portion of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling but insisted it be included in tax legislation at the urging of others. Addressing fellow Republicans at the House and Senate Republican Member Conference in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, mentioned the wildlife refuge known as ANWR in Alaska’s northeast corner as he recounted accomplishments in the last year, including the tax bill passed by Congress in December. Trump said he “never appreciated ANWR so much” but was told of its importance by others. “A friend of mine called up, who’s in that world and in that business, and said, ‘Is it true that you’re thinking about ANWR?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I think we’re going to get it, but you know.’ He said, ‘Are you kidding? That’s the biggest thing, by itself.’ He said, ’Ronald Reagan and every president has wanted to get ANWR approved.” The comment had a major impact, Trump said. “I really didn’t care about it, and then when I heard that everybody wanted it — for 40 years, they’ve been trying to get it approved, and I said, ‘Make sure you don’t lose ANWR,’” Trump said. Oil in the refuge, Trump said, is one of the great potential fields anywhere in the world. “That by itself is a big bill,” he said.
Hurry up and wait. In mid-January, Alaska’s gasline corporation filed tens of thousands of pages of documents with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Now, the state is waiting for the commission to make a decision on if, and when, the state can get to work on its massive liquefied natural gas (LNG) export project. Last week, the head of Alaska’s gasline corporation landed in Juneau for two days of meetings with lawmakers and updates on the Alaska LNG project. In between those meetings, Alaska Gasline Development Corporation (AGDC) President Keith Meyer sat down to answer some questions on the federal permitting process. In mid-January, the state corporation announced that it finished several months of work filing responses to questions FERC had on its application for the Alaska LNG project. Those questions were on everything from impacts on Alaska native culture to how the project could impact fish in the water bodies it crosses. With those answers, the application has ballooned from 36,000 pages that the state corporation filed last year — to a current total just shy of 100,000 pages. Now, Meyer and the state corporation are hoping that the federal commission will put out a schedule for completing that environmental review.
Zinke on Alaska issues. In an interview with Channel 2’s Washington D.C. bureau, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke commented on several hot topics in the state. Those issues included a land swap to allow a road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, the resignation of several National Park Advisory Board members, including former Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles, the possibility to change the name of Denali back to Mt. McKinley, and commercial fishing and salmon runs. When it comes to the road to King Cove, a controversial project that recently saw a lawsuit filed against the US government by environmentalists, Zinke said that its construction is “absolutely the right thing to do.” “A village that’s in the Aleutian chain has the right to have access to medical emergencies by an air strip and that’s exactly what we did. It’s a single lane gravel road that does no harm, but it’s the right thing for the village,” Zinke said.
Andeavor Has Acquired The Kenai LNG Facility From ConocoPhillips
KSRM Radio Group, Jennifer Williams, February 1, 2018
Billions From Trump Tax Cuts Supercharge Fossil Fuel Sector
Bloomberg Technology, Kevin Crowley, David Wethe & Alex Nussbaum, February 1, 2018
Trump explains support for oil drilling in Arctic refuge
AP News, Dan Joling, February 2, 2018
It’s hurry up and wait for state gasline corporation’s federal permitting schedule
Alaska Public Media, Rashah McChesney, February 1, 2018
In interview, Sec. Zinke responds to state-wide Alaskan issues
KTUU, Leroy Polk, February 1,2018
Now you see me, now you don’t…The State of Alaska offered, then abruptly revoked, help to the City and Borough of Juneau in an ongoing lawsuit. On Wednesday afternoon, the State of Alaska withdrew a legal memo it had filed Tuesday that supported the CBJ’s position in a case brought by the cruise ship industry. The withdrawal came as industry officials gathered in Juneau as part of an annual legislative fly-in. The legal memo, formally called an amicus brief, didn’t formally involve the state in the lawsuit, but it did offer a legal interpretation that supported the CBJ’s position. “The amicus brief was filed in error due to internal miscommunications,” Cori Mills, a spokeswoman for the Alaska Department of Law, told the Empire by email Wednesday. “The state will continue to monitor this case, but the state is not a party to the case nor does it directly implicate state statute.”
Alliance member NANA produces newest house member. The newest member of the Alaska Legislature has been sworn in. State Rep. John Lincoln of Kotzebue was sworn in Wednesday, one week after being appointed by Gov. Bill Walker. He was later confirmed by House Democrats. State law requires legislative vacancies be filled by someone from the same party as the predecessor. Election records show Lincoln switched from “undeclared” to Democrat on Jan. 22. Lincoln succeeds former Rep. Dean Westlake, who resigned in December after female aides accused him of unwanted touching and inappropriate comments. Westlake has said he is sorry if he made anyone uncomfortable. Lincoln is a vice president for NANA Regional Corp. He also is a pilot and has worked as an EMT for the Kotzebue Volunteer Fire Department, according to a bio from Walker’s office.
From our friends in the Senate: “ Thank you for taking the time to participate in our recent web survey. Duplicates and out-of-state submissions (424) were purged from the final tally. See the results on-line here:” https://www.alaskasenate.org/results
“Knowledge shallower than a contact lens case.” Nobody could blame Rep. Justin Parish for loving the sound of his own voice. The problem is that everything that comes out of the Juneau Democrat’s mouth regarding oil taxes following his baritone “Madam Chair” reveals a depth of knowledge that is shallower than a contact lens case. Parish was on full, cringe-worthy display at a couple recent hearings of the House Resources Committee, where co-chair Rep. Geran Tarr, D-Anchorage, is forcing oil industry representatives to hump to Juneau yet again for more hearings on another oil tax bill that’s going nowhere. If these hearings are good for anything — other than serving as a constant reminder that the state is on track to see its third straight year of production increases on the North Slope — it is to witness the Democrat-led Majority’s utter cluelessness on policy from definitional basics to more complex financial reporting. First up was Parish questioning Tax Division Director Ken Alper, whom Democrats have relied upon since taking the House majority in 2016 to help craft their seemingly endless series of oil tax increases. At the Jan. 26 hearing, Alper had an innocuous PowerPoint slide that noted Tarr’s proposal to raise the gross minimum tax from 4 percent to 7 percent is a 75 percent increase. Parish, who once wrote that “French is the international language of freedom,” decided to wade into the universal language of math. “We are contemplating increasing the effective rate by 3 percent,” Parish said. “It’s such a curious quirk of language. Because if we were increasing it from 1 percent to 2 percent, you could say we’re increasing the effective tax rate by 100 percent.”
ConocoPhillips acquires stake in North Slope development from Anadarko. ConocoPhillips posted a big $1.58 billion profit for the fourth quarter as the Houston oil giant continues to swing back to a moneymaking venture after the oil bust. But most of those earnings came courtesy of an extra $900 million from the new U.S. tax law and a $337 million settlement with Ecuador. Without those extra dollars, ConocoPhillips still would have earned about $400 million versus a $35 million loss in the final quarter of 2016 for the full year 2017, ConocoPhillips recorded a $900 million loss as it recovers from the oil crash, versus a much larger $3.6 billion loss in 2016. ConocoPhillips said it just paid $400 million to The Woodlands’ Anadarko Petroleum to acquire its 22 percent stake in Alaska’s Western North Slope development. The Houston oil and gas producer also is using its extra profits to give more money back to shareholders, increasing the quarterly dividend from 26.5 cents a share up to 28.5 cents. ConocoPhillips is moving forward with a share buyback program and also announced the pay down of $2.25 billion in debt. “While the outlook for commodity prices has improved, our operating plan remains unchanged and we have already taken clear actions to demonstrate our commitment to maintain discipline and follow our priorities,” said ConocoPhillips Chairman an CEO Ryan Lance. Apart from the $900 million in U.S. tax law benefits and the Ecuadorian settlement from the government’s previous confiscation of assets, Lance attributed most of the profits growth to the rising oil and gas prices worldwide.
Congratulations to Usibelli Coal Mine!
Lincoln sworn in as newest Alaska House member
AP News, Becky Bohrer, February 1, 2018
State offers, then withdraws, help to CBJ on cruise ship lawsuit
Juneau Empire, James Brooks, February 1, 2018
Parish flunks out on oil taxes
Alaska Journal of Commerce, Andrew Jensen, January 31, 2018
ConocoPhillips posts big profit, acquires Alaska stake from Anadarko
Chron, Jordan Blum, February 1, 2018
Can’t develop without a road. The window for public comment on a controversial road comes to a close this week. The Ambler Mining District Industrial Access Project — or Ambler Road — would start at the Dalton highway and stretch over 200 miles west. That’s a big road in a state with not that many of them. Proponents say it will enable growth of the mining industry, and create jobs. Detractors worry about impacts to subsistence and the environment. The road itself is an idea that’s been kicking around for decades. But it picked up steam back in 2011. At that time, the price of oil was high, the state had cash, and then-Governor Sean Parnell wanted to put some of that money toward encouraging natural resource development in parts of the state that were off the road system. Ambler Road was part of that push. It’s an area that has been explored for its rich mineral potential since the 1950s, but hasn’t been developed because of its remoteness.
Pruitt’s Pandering Prohibits Process. Scott Pruitt has done good work reining in his predecessor’s regulatory overreach. But that only makes the EPA Administrator’s decision late last week to rubber stamp a violation of due process toward a mine proposal in Alaska all the more disappointing. The Environmental Protection Agency said it will no longer seek to withdraw the Obama Administration’s pre-emptive veto of the proposed Pebble copper and gold mine in southwest Alaska. The Obama EPA issued that unprecedented veto in February 2014, blocking Pebble’s progress through the regular Clean Water Act process in which a company files for permits and receives an environmental review from the Army Corps of Engineers. EPA’s job is to weigh in at the end of the review, not short-circuit the application. EPA says that although the veto will remain in place, the agency will allow the Pebble Limited Partnership an additional three years to navigate the Corps process. This is less generous than it sounds. Pebble had already won that right in May 2017, when the EPA settled litigation Pebble brought that had exposed EPA’s phony science and the collaboration by EPA employees with anti-mine activists and native tribes to sabotage the project. As part of that settlement, EPA agreed to start formally withdrawing the veto. Mr. Pruitt’s about-face is the sort of arbitrary diktat that undermines capital investment. Shares in Northern Dynasty Minerals, which owns Pebble, fell 21% on Monday, the first trading day after the Pruitt announcement. EPA says its decision to maintain the veto is based on more than “one million comments” it has received since this summer that mostly oppose the mine, and Mr. Pruitt’s judgment that “any mining projects in the region likely pose a risk to the abundant natural resources that exist there.”
Merging with the competition. Plans to reopen a fertilizer plant in Nikiski are on hold after the company formerly known as Agrium entered a merger with its competition. The newly formed Nutrien faces the same problems in reopening the plant, plus delays from smoothening out the merger, the Peninsula Clarion reported Monday. The plant opening still depends on corporate investment priorities and the always-looming question of whether the global fertilizer manufacturer can get the natural gas it uses as raw material. But Nutrien Government Affairs Manager Adam Diamond said the merger has put some plans on hold, including whether to study a possible reopening of the plant. Nutrien formed from the combination of Alberta-based Agrium and its Saskatchewan-based rival Potash Corp. Werth. Diamond said Nutrien’s management would review their post-merger prospects over the next six months. In 2016 interviews, Diamond said reopening the plant would cost an estimated $275 million — a calculation he said the company hasn’t refined since. If Nutrien were to reopen the plant, it would be able to take advantage of a tax credit crafted by Republican state Rep. Mike Chenault of Nikiski, which went into effect in July 2017. Nutrien’s corporate income tax liability would be credited equal to the royalty payments made to the state by the producers who supply Nutrien its gas, making it financially neutral for the state government.
Support and concern as Ambler Road comment period draws to a close
KTOO Public Media, Ravenna Koenig, January 30, 2018
Pruitt’s Bad Pebble Precedent
The Wall Street Journal, The Editorial Board, January 30, 2018
Merger could delay plans to reopen Nikiski fertilizer plant
AP News, January 31, 2018
Alaska take note: lower taxes lead to increased investment – $50 billion. Exxon Mobil Corp. plans to spend $50 billion in the United States over the next five years, an investment enabled by the recent sweeping changes to U.S. corporate tax law, the company said Monday. Exxon said it will pour billions of dollars into the Permian Basin, a prolific oil field in West Texas and New Mexico, and it plans to build new manufacturing sites, improve its infrastructure and expand existing operations. “This will create thousands of jobs, strengthen the U.S. economy and enhance energy security,” Exxon CEO Darren Woods said in a blog post on the company’s website. Exxon’s investment comes after similar announcements by Apple and JPMorgan Chase & Co., which said they would invest billions in the United States after the U.S. corporate tax rate was lowered from 35 percent to 21 percent. It also comes on the heels of Exxon’s own plan to invest $20 billion over the next decade in projects along the Gulf Coast. Wood said the company is “actively evaluating” how the lower corporate tax rate will impact “the economics of several other projects currently in the planning stages to further expand our facilities along the Gulf Coast.”
Higher oil prices won’t save Alaska. It’s the year of the budget at the Alaska legislature. And while lawmakers debate new taxes and drawing from the Permanent Fund, oil prices marched steadily upward in January. Two days ago, the price of Alaska’s oil jumped up above $70 dollars per barrel for the first time in three years. And, that’s big news in Juneau. Some senate Republicans point to those rising oil prices as an argument to bolster their reluctance to vote for an income tax. It’s big news for Alaska too. Because that’s right about the price point when the state starts making nearly $70 million dollars for every dollar the price increases. But that doesn’t go far when you’re facing a budget deficit in the billions. Sure, the gap between what the state spends and what it makes starts closing faster. And that price is much higher than the $56 per barrel the state projected for the next year. State Tax Division Director Ken Alper said if prices stay in that range through next June, the state expects to bring in about $200 million more than previously thought. “That will cover a little less than one-tenth of the deficit which is estimated at about $2.5 billion,” Alper said.
If you discourage something, you get less of it. Oil company officials urged Alaska lawmakers on Monday to reject a $225 million production tax increase proposed in the House, saying it will damage the economy and reduce industry investment at a promising time. “The bill will stall the growing momentum in the industry that has and continues to drive Alaska’s economy,” said Cory Quarles, Alaska production manager for ExxonMobil, speaking to the House Resources Committee. “This is the wrong time to disincentivize development,” said Scott Jepsen, head of external affairs and transportation for ConocoPhillips Alaska. Several major projects are in the works, including by ConocoPhillips, Jepsen said. But a significant tax increase could threaten some, such as the Willow prospect, by boosting costs, he said. The company has yet to make a final decision to develop that field, which could produce 100,000 barrels daily. “We don’t have to pursue that,” he said. Reps. Andy Josephson and Geran Tarr, Anchorage Democrats and Resources co-chairs, and Paul Seaton, R-Homer, introduced the bill to boost the minimum production tax to 7 percent, from 4 percent.
Got gas? Call Agrium. Agrium could see the re-opening of its North Kenai fertilizer facility, the company’s new Alaska manager made the announcement on January 23. The Agrium facility employed 400 Alaska residents when it was in full operation before it closed in 2007. The new Alaska Manager is Fred Werth. The facility closed its doors when the Cook Inlet gas fields saw a major decline and the facility was unable to secure enough supply in order to keep operating. But the outlook has brightened. More gas is flowing in the aging oil-and-gas basin, and explorers have announced new discoveries. On September 12, 2016, Agrium announced that it had agreed to merge with PotashCorp, which will make the combined company, Nutrien, the largest producer of potash and second-largest producer of nitrogen fertilizer worldwide. Agrium is proposing a schedule in which it takes a year to inspect and assess the site, “Assuming plant rehabilitation is economical, and assuming an adequate supply of natural gas can be secured” the company will implement a 26-month plant renovation phase.
Exxon, citing tax, regulatory relief, to spend $50b in U.S.
Chron, Collin Eaton, January 29, 2018
Higher oil prices help, but don’t solve the state’s budget problem
Alaska Public Media, Rashah McChesney, January 29, 2018
Oil industry officials slam proposed hike in production tax
Anchorage Daily News, Alex DeMarban, January 30, 2018
Agrium Working To Re-Open North Kenai Fertilizer Facility
KSRM Radio Group, Jennifer Williams, January 29, 2018
Decision neither “deters nor derails”. Opponents of the Pebble mine project took Friday afternoon to celebrate a small but unexpected victory via Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt. Pruitt announced Friday that the EPA would not finalize the proposed withdrawal of the 2014 proposed determination to prohibit a large mine in the Bristol Bay region through its Clean Water Act Section 404(c) authority. The agency said in a statement Friday that it has “serious concerns” about the impacts of mining activity in the Bristol Bay watershed and public comments in stakeholder meetings stressed the importance of the world’s largest wild salmon fishery. Pruitt said it would be disingenuous for the agency to not offer an environmental position at this stage of the project. Pebble Limited Partnership filed its wetlands fill permit application with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Dec. 22. The application outlines plans to fill 3,190 acres of wetlands at the mine site. While not specific to any mine plan — a point Pebble and parent company Northern Dynasty minerals have stressed — the Bristol Bay Watershed assessment published by EPA in 2014 concludes a mine that would fill more than about 1,100 acres would be too damaging to fish habitat to allow. Pruitt emphasized in his statement that his decision “neither deters nor derails” the Pebble environmental permit application process now underway while at the same time he has heard from stakeholders on whether to withdraw the proposed 404(c) restrictions.
Keep it simple. The City and Borough of Juneau Mining Committee voted Thursday to pursue changes to the city’s current mining ordinance — very minor ones, that is. The changes, if they’re made, will have one simple goal: make the ordinance easier to understand. At the request of the committee members, City Attorney Amy Mead will go through the 17-page ordinance and outline areas that could use clarification. She will not be suggesting any substantive changes to the ordinance, but will be making changes to language.
Port Mackenzie is out of the Alaska LNG project. The state-owned Alaska Gasline Development Corp. will begin soliciting equity investments by mid-year in the proposed $43 billion Alaska LNG Project, officials of the corporation told state legislators in briefings last week. An initial offering will be aimed at raising about $1 billion to be used for final engineering needed to prepare the project for final investment decision by the state and potential Chinese customers in mid-2019, Keith Meyer, AGDC’s president, told the resources and finance committees in the House and Senate. A recent accomplishment is the completion of answers to over 100 technical questions asked by the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on the Alaska LNG Project’s application to the agency for a certificate for the giant project, Meyer said. Alaska LNG is now waiting for the FERC to set a schedule for the federal Environmental Impact Project that is needed. Meyer also explained why the Matanuska-Susitna Borough’s Port MacKenzie was eliminated early on as a site for the terminus of the Alaska LNG Project’s 800-mile, 42-inch pipeline and large liquefied natural gas plant. “Port MacKenzie is a little too close to Anchorage and ship traffic going there. Also, Port MacKenzie is a multi-use cargo port and federal law requires an LNG terminal to be single-use,” Meyer said. “The Alaska coast has many locations that would make wonderful port, but we wound up choosing Nikiski and we’re sticking with that,” he said.
Canada to rival US in shale revolution? The revolution in U.S. shale oil has battered Canada’s energy industry in recent years, ending two decades of rapid expansion and job creation in the nation’s vast oil sands. Now Canada is looking to its own shale fields to repair the economic damage. Canadian producers and global oil majors are increasingly exploring the Duvernay and Montney formations, which they say could rival the most prolific U.S. shale fields. Canada is the first country outside the United States to see large-scale development of shale resources, which already account for 8 percent of total Canadian oil output. China, Russia and Argentina also have ample shale reserves but have yet to overcome the obstacles to full commercial development. Canada, by contrast, offers many of the same advantages that allowed oil firms to launch the shale revolution in the United States: numerous private energy firms with appetite for risk; deep capital markets; infrastructure to transport oil; low population in regions that contain shale reserves; and plentiful water to pump into shale wells. Together, the Duvernay and Montney formations in Canada hold marketable resources estimated at 500 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, 20 billion barrels of natural gas liquids and 4.5 billion barrels of oil, according to the National Energy Board, a Canadian regulator.
From today’s Washington Examiner, Daily on Energy:
EPA HALTS APPROVAL PROCESS FOR ALASKA GOLD MINE: The EPA on Friday night reversed a prior decision and halted the approval process of a gold mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay. Pruitt said the Pebble Mine project would harm the area’s natural resources. “It is my judgment at this time that any mining projects in the region likely pose a risk to the abundant natural resources that exist there,” Pruitt said. Bottom line: The decision, a rare nod from Pruitt to environmentalists, does not cancel the mine outright, but leaves in place the Obama administration’s block of the project until the EPA solicits further comments. Pruitt said he made the decision after consulting with various stakeholders, including Alaska natives and tribal governments. Local opposition: The Obama administration had denied the mine a permit for years because of the potential impact it would have on water quality and the number of salmon that indigenous populations rely upon. That decision led to a lawsuit in 2014 by the Canadian company developing the mine.
Mining Committee seeks to make ordinance easier to understand
Juneau Empire, Alex McCarthy, January 28, 2018
EPA’s unexpected decision welcomed by Pebble opponents
Alaska Journal of Commerce, Elwood Brehmer, January 27, 2018
Port Mac not part of $43 million LNG Project
Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, Tim Bradner, January 28, 2018
Why Canada is the next frontier for shale oil
Reuters, Nia Williams, January 28, 2018
Stacking the PF Board to get cash for Alaska LNG? Alaska lawmakers this week have been getting detailed updates on Gov. Bill Walker’s plans to ship North Slope gas to Asia. Thursday was the Senate’s turn to get a briefing on the proposed $43 billion project designed to export gas to Asian countries. Understanding the project requires navigating a complicated series of charts, spreadsheets and graphs. But Sen. Natasha von Imhof (R-Anchorage) took the discussion to something close to Alaskans hearts and bank accounts: the Permanent Fund. Von Imhof, who serves on both the Senate Resources and Finance Committees, asked Alaska Gasline Development Corp. President Keith Meyer if there are plans to tap the Permanent Fund to finance the project. The fund is currently valued at $66 billion. “The state, in my mind, has the first option to invest,” Meyer told members of both committees assembled for the two-hour hearing. “I don’t care necessarily where it comes from. I would encourage them to look at it, but we have no expectation at this point that funding would come from that source.” Still, von Imhof pressed. “So you will not actively pursue Permanent Fund investment?” she asked Meyer. “You will wait and see if the board of trustees come to you – is that what I’m hearing?” Meyer replied, “I think they ought to be interested enough to come and take a look at the project. Just to be clear, we do not intend to have the Permanent Fund to be a funder of the project. Don’t intend to exclude them either.” After the hearing, von Imhof remained concerned about the Permanent Fund’s role. She cites a possible change to the fund’s Board of Trustees could be imminent with Board Chair William G. Moran’s term expiring this year. Additionally, Walker recently appointed his former business partner, Attorney General Craig Richards, to the board. “When you’re stacking the board sympathetic to your cause, what’s stopping the Permanent Fund from being a significant investor in this project?” she asked. “Alaskans need to pay attention to Permanent Fund appointments. They matter.” Late last year, the state signed agreements with China’s state-owned oil company, Sinopec, and two Chinese financial institutions. They agreed to help Alaska advance the project, but the agreements did not come with any financial commitments It’s left some lawmakers questioning whether China is a serious partner.
Murkowski to ask Zinke to be sensitive. Alaska’s Republican senator said on Thursday she will ask Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to remove certain sensitive offshore areas of Alaska from his proposed strategy to increase oil and gas drilling in federal waters. Senator Lisa Murkowski, who chairs the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said the Alaska congressional delegation is “really bullish and optimistic” about the oil and gas potential of the Arctic and the Cook inlet. But she said they have concerns about more sensitive ecological areas in the Gulf of Alaska and in the Kawerak region in the Bering Straits.
From today’s Washington Examiner, Daily on Energy:
TRUMP WINS BIG ENERGY INVESTMENTS FROM TAX REFORM ADMIRERS IN DAVOS: The world’s energy companies pledged increased investment in the U.S. at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, pleased with President Trump’s tax legislation. French oil giant to invest more: The CEO of Total, France’s global energy giant and the fourth largest oil company in the world, told Trump that the company is looking to pump up investment in the wake of the December tax cuts. The law cuts the corporate tax rate from 38 percent to 21 percent. “We invest around $15 billion each year, and at least $1 billion as an average in the U.S. … and even we will do more with your tax reform,” Total CEO Patrick Pouyanne told Trump at a Thursday night reception at the World Economic Forum. But are you happy? “So from the U.S. standpoint, you’re very happy about it?” Trump asked Pouyanne. The CEO replied, “Yes, I’m happy.” Electronics giant Siemens plans expansion: The head of global manufacturing and electronics giant Siemens told Trump that his tax reform package has driven its decision to start building advanced natural gas turbines for power plants in the United States. “We’re doing really well,” Joe Kaeser, chairman and CEO of Siemens, told Trump at the reception. “As a matter of fact, we’ve been investing quite a lot into the country. And since you have been successful with tax reform, we decided to develop next-generation gas turbines in the United States.” “So, congratulations on your tax reform,” he said. “You said this is what you’re going to do.”
Lawmakers: Is Permanent Fund part of LNG plan?
KTVA, Steve Quinn January 25, 2018
Senator asks Interior chief to shield parts of Alaska from offshore drilling
Reuters, Reuters Staff, January 25, 2018
Ship to shore – nevermore? With new icebreaking tankers hauling liquefied natural gas off Russia’s frozen coasts, some observers say Alaska should consider eliminating the pricey pipeline in the $43 billion Alaska LNG project and ship the product straight off the North Slope. Others say that’s a poor idea. Savings from eliminating Alaska LNG’s $8 billion, 800-mile pipeline, which would deliver North Slope gas to warmer Nikiski for liquefaction and shipment, would quickly vanish with acquisitions of icebreakers, specialized Arctic facilities and high operational costs, they say. “Why can’t people just let this go?” said Larry Persily, former federal coordinator for Alaska gasline projects under President Barack Obama. But technology has improved and sea ice has thinned, and North Slope LNG exports should be closely examined, said Mead Treadwell, former chair of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission and former lieutenant governor.
Friends in high places for Alaska LNG. President Trump is credited with helping advance Alaska’s long sought gas pipeline project. Alaska Gasline Development Corporation president Keith Meyer told the Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce yesterday that Trump administration goals dovetail with selling North Slope gas to Asia. “We’re really getting a good reception in Washington and it’s largely because we have a project that fits very well with the administration goals of trade and infrastructure and energy export,” Meyer said. Meyer says AGDC is spending a lot of time in Washington working with Whitehouse and agency officials on the estimated 43 billion dollar Alaska gas line project. “And so we sort of, when we’re in Washington, brand this as America’s large energy infrastructure project,” Meyer said. Meyer credits President Trump’s relationship with Chinese president Xi JinPing with helping grow interest in Alaska gas, pointing specifically to an April 2017 meeting. “In that meeting at Mar-a-Lago, Florida, President Trump, because of the work we’d done in Washington, mentioned Alaska LNG,” Meyer said.
Donlin listens to community. Residents met with state regulators in Bethel’s Cultural Center last night to discuss water and waste management at the proposed Donlin Gold Mine. Officials from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) organized the meeting after drafting two of the dozens of permits that Donlin Gold will need. Both would regulate how the mine disposes of dangerous chemicals and other waste, and the DEC wants to hear from the public before finalizing its decision. One permit would allow 4,500 gallons per minute of treated wastewater to be dumped into Crooked Creek, and lays out the levels of contamination that would be allowed in the water. The other would regulate the pools and piles where other waste from the mine would be stored. The draft permits also specify how that waste would be monitored.
Alaska gas line backers reject idea of North Slope LNG exports by tanker
Anchorage Daily News, Alex DeMarban, January 24, 2018
Head of Gasline Corporation says Trump is helping push project forward
Alaska Public Media, Dan Bross, January 24, 2018
Passions Run High At Meeting On Donlin Gold Water Management
KYUK Public Media, Teresa Cotsirilos, January 25, 2018
Doing things right at the Donlin Gold Mine. State regulators are gathering in Bethel tonight to discuss water and waste management at the Donlin Gold Mine. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has tentatively decided to issue two permits to Donlin Gold. One authorizes the mine to discharge its wastewater into Crooked Creek, provided that Donlin treats it first. The other allows Donlin to dispose of other waste, including contaminants like cyanide. The agency wants to hear from the public before making any final decisions. At tonight’s meeting, DEC representatives will explain the permits to the public and answer any questions, then listen to residents’ comments and concerns. The meeting begins tonight at 5:30 p.m. in the Cultural Center. This is the second of three meetings that the DEC is holding on Donlin Gold’s water and waste management permits. They held the first in Aniak last week and will hold a final discussion in Anchorage this Friday.
Tightening the belt – industry wide. The world’s largest energy companies plan to significantly widen a two-year effort to standardize the kit they use to pump oil and gas, hoping they can deliver significant cost savings, said people familiar with the matter. The discussions, scheduled on Wednesday for a closed-door meeting at the World Economic Forum in Davos, are the latest sign companies are seeking to tighten their belts permanently even as oil prices recover. Bespoke equipment designed on a project-by-project basis was common during the decade-long boom in crude prices, but looks less affordable after the industry’s worst downturn in a generation. “Standardization could save the oil and gas industry hundreds of millions of dollars every year,” Bob Dudley, the chief executive officer of BP Plc, said in an interview in Davos.
Walker seeks “additional options” to replace Westlake. Would you accept a job that requires you to move, take a massive pay cut and join an institution detested by many? And to reapply for the position in less than a year, at which point any salacious details of your personal life could be exposed to the public? Those are the questions facing the potential replacements for Dean Westlake, the Democratic former representative from the Northwest Alaska village of Kiana who resigned last month amid allegations of unwanted sexual advances. The Alaska Democratic Party two weeks ago sent Gov. Bill Walker three names to choose from: Leanna Mack, an aide to the mayor of the North Slope Borough, as well as two Kotzebue City Council members, Sandy Shroyer-Beaver and Eugene Smith. But Walker hasn’t picked one of them to fill Westlake’s seat — representing House District 40 in northern Alaska — and in a phone interview Monday, he suggested that he’s unlikely to. “I think that it makes sense to have some additional options at this point,” Walker said.
One step closer to construction? A liquefied natural gas project in Alaska could be operating by 2024 because of the quick pace of meeting regulatory requirements, the developer said. An LNG project in the design phase in Alaska would connect a natural gas reservoir in Prudhoe Bay through 800 miles of pipe to a liquefaction plant on the southcentral Alaskan coast. The Alaska Gasline Development Corp., the project’s developer, said it submitted its responses to the 801 questions posed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in quick order. The developer said questions ranged from the impact on fish to the impact on the aboriginal communities in Alaska. Keith Meyer, the president of the development company, said the pace of turnaround to FERC put the project one step closer to construction. The response to FERC, on top of some commercial agreements, “is a clear signal to the markets that Alaska LNG is on track to deliver energy stability at competitive prices by 2024 or 2025,” he said in a statement.
Long way to go before construction? A Chinese bank official involved in talks with Alaska over the $43 billion natural gas line project said on Tuesday the Bank of China is taking steps toward arranging a group of lenders to cover the project’s huge financing costs. But Raymond Qiao, managing director of the Bank of China’s New York branch, cautioned that there is still a long way to go before Chinese entities such as his decide to invest in the project. He said the project will probably be built, citing “advantages” that include Alaska’s proximity and giant gas resources and growing demand in China for the resource. Qiao said China is very interested in the project that would deliver North Slope natural gas to Asian markets. The gas would be shipped down an 800-mile pipeline and super-chilled into a liquid for ocean-going export out of Nikiski.
Society is built around mining. The Alaska Miners Association chapter chair Graham Neale also is director of the University of Alaska Southeast’s Center for Mine Training in Juneau. Neale said mining is an important industry. “You look around this room, and pretty much everything that’s in this room has either come out of the ground or on top of the ground. And everything that we’re eating has come from agriculture,” he said. “Everything that’s made out of wood came from the timber industry which is obviously a huge economic driver in this region during the ‘70s and ‘80s. And everything else comes out of the ground. And so that’s why we mine. We’ve built ourselves a society around it, and we’ve come to depend on these things in our natural life.” Casey Bain works at the Center for Mine Training coordinating programs and recruiting new students. “My mission is to get out there and get high school seniors interested and involved in mining,” Bain said. “To know these jobs are here, and to know what kind of training opportunities they need to become a successful employee in the industry.”
Big Oil Plans Tenfold Expansion of Cost-Cut Collaboration
Bloomberg Markets, Javier Blas, January 23, 2018
Alaska Democrats are having trouble finding someone to replace former Rep. Westlake. Here’s why.
Anchorage Daily News, Nathaniel Hertz, January 24, 2018
Alaska’s LNG project inching toward reality
UPI, Daniel J. Graeber, January 23, 2018
China is ‘serious’ about Alaska gas line, Bank of China official says
Anchorage Daily News, Alex DeMarban, January 23, 2018
University of Alaska Southeast program trains students for mining careers
KTOO Public Media, Maria Dudzak, January 24, 2018
Bethel Public Meeting Will Discuss Donlin Gold Water Management
KYUK Public Media
U.S. Supreme Court “seals” the deal. Bearded seals dwelling in the icy waters between Alaska and Russia will remain protected under the Endangered Species Act after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an attempt to reverse that status Monday. The United States’ highest court announced that it will not hear an appeal filed by oil industry advocates, the state of Alaska, the North Slope Borough and others seeking to overturn the threatened listing granted to bearded seals in 2012. The threatened listing, which applies to bearded seals in the Beringian region and in Russia’s Sea of Okhotsk, had been initially overturned in 2014 by U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Beistline in Alaska as “arbitrary and capricious,” but was reinstated in 2016 by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The legal path for the threatened listing started in 2008 as a result of a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity and Greenpeace seeking Endangered Species Act protections for another ice-dependent seal species, the ribbon seal. In a settlement, NOAA agreed to review the status of all four species of seals that use ice in Arctic waters off Alaska. Ultimately, the ribbon seal did not get Endangered Species Act listing, though it was designated by NOAA as a “species of concern.” Bearded, ringed and spotted seals did get threatened designations, though for spotted seals the designation was only for a distinct population segment outside of U.S. waters.
Climate change solution will create a climate change problem? Widespread use of a futuristic energy technology to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere would create severe environmental problems, scientists argue in a new critique, casting doubt on one potential method of helping humanity escape the worst effects of climate change. The technology, known as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), comes in many variations. But the core idea is burning trees or other plants for energy while pulling in the resulting carbon dioxide and storing it below ground. When the plants grow back again, they would pull more carbon dioxide from the air, resulting in a net removal of the greenhouse gas from the atmosphere. BECCS has been used only rarely thus far, but many had hoped widespread use of the technology would provide large amounts of energy while helping to fight climate change. It would be particularly important if the world misses its targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In that scenario, greenhouse gases concentrations would pass the maximum levels climatologists say could avoid bringing about extreme consequences of climate change, and hitting the targets would require “negative emissions” technologies that lower concentrations.
Good news for LNG industry – China cuts back on coal. China is replacing coal with gas, sucking up global supplies of the fuel and pushing up the price of liquefied natural gas to a three-year high. The world’s No. 2 economy is cutting back on coal after President Xi Jinping made a cleaner environment a key priority at last Fall’s Communist Party Congress. That has left large swathes of industry in China struggling with limited gas, including giants like German chemical company BASF SE and local producer Yunnan Yuntianhua Co., as supplies are diverted to households that had previously relied on coal for heating. China’s smog levels are still well in excess of World Health Organization standards, and analysts see no letup in the country’s move out of coal, which releases more greenhouse gas emissions than gas.
Alaska earthquake gets US west coast refiners attention. A 7.9 magnitude earthquake early Tuesday in the Gulf of Alaska has prompted a tsunami warning issued for the coast, which could threaten shipments of Alaska North Slope crude from the Port of Valdez. According to the Alaska Earthquake Center, the quake occurred 166 miles southeast of Kodiak. The Port of Valdez is the southern terminus of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, through with 548,293 b/d of crude was transported in December, according to the Alyeska Pipeline service company. Neither the Port of Valdez nor Alyeska Pipeline could be reached for comment. ANS crude is consumed largely by US West Coast refiners, and at times has been exported to Asia. The closure of the Port of Valdez or the trans-Alaska pipeline for an extended period would push USWC refiners to seek alternative waterborne exports. Headlamp wonders if lower 48 or international reporters are aware that we do have phones and email here? The TAPS design is solid and the TAPS support teams follow great protocols. Exhibit 1: It survived the Denali fault quake and nothing happened last night…
Talerico, Tarr and Taxes in House Resources. The House Resources Committee kicked off its first hearing this legislative session with predictable discussion: oil taxes. House Resources Co-chair Geran Tarr (D-Anchorage) wants to increase the minimum rate from 4 percent to 7 percent when prices are above $25 a barrel. If passed by both chambers, the bill could be worth as much as $255 million to the state’s coffers annually, according to a Department of Revenue analysis. For example, when the market price for North Slope oil hits $60 per barrel, the state receives about $2 per barrel. Under Tarr’s proposal – HB 288 – a $60 per barrel market price would generate $3.55 a barrel for the state. According to a Department of Revenue December report, petroleum revenue was responsible for 65 percent of the state’s unrestricted revenue during the 2017 fiscal year, which ended June 30, 2017. Current prices for North Slope oil have been inching closer to $70 a barrel in recent weeks. On Friday, closed at $68.70. Tarr told the panel her bill falls into a bigger picture plan toward closing the $2.5 billion budget gap and is “a conversation starter”. “I hope (it’s) something we’ll think about as we try to address our fiscal challenges and this deficit,” Tarr said. Tarr’s offering quickly generated pushback from minority Republicans questioning whether the bill will have a chilling effect on long-term investment. David Talerico (R-Healey) said he’ll continue to ask how any tax bill affects production volume, future exploration, and overall future investment. He also wants to make sure there are no “creative amendments” that could send the bill down a path away from its original intent. Headlamp finds this intriguing as Speaker Bryce Edgmon told attendees at an RDC breakfast the week prior that the House would not be focusing on oil and gas taxes this session.
Better to buy washing machines and solar panels locally…. President Donald Trump slapped steep tariffs on imported washing machines and solar panels on Monday, giving a boost to Whirlpool Corp and dealing a setback to the renewable energy industry in the first of several potential trade restrictions. The decisions in the two “Section 201” safeguard cases followed findings by the U.S. International Trade Commission that both imported products “are a substantial cause of serious injury to domestic manufacturers,” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement. The washer tariffs exceeded the harshest recommendations from ITC members, while the solar tariffs were lower than domestic producers had hoped for. The restrictions aim to help domestic manufacturers but drew complaints that consumer costs for new washers and solar installations will rise.
US Supreme Court won’t hear case to remove bearded seals from endangered list
Arctic Now, Yereth Rosen, January 22, 2018
It’s the big new idea for stopping climate change — but it has huge environmental problems of its own
The Washington Post, Chris Mooney, January 22, 2018
China Sucks Gas Out of Global Market Amid Shift From Coal
The Wall Street Journal, Sarah McFarlane and Nathaniel Taplin, January 23, 2018
Alaska earthquake could threaten over 500,000 b/d of ANS crude oil shipments
S&P Global Platts, Jeff Mower, January 23, 2018
House bill reignites longstanding oil tax debate
KTVA, Steve Quinn, January 22, 2018
Trump slaps steep U.S. tariffs on imported washers, solar panels
Reuters, David Lawder & Nichola Groom, January 22, 2018