The US Department of Energy has given conditional approval for liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports from the proposed terminal at Nikiski. Alaska received approval to export to nations without a free-trade agreement with the United States on May 28, 2015. Approval to export to free-trade nations was given in November 2014.
This approval is significant because it allows Alaska to export to countries who make up a major portion of the LNG market, including Japan, Taiwan, China, India and other Asian nations. Allowing Alaska to export LNG to non-free trade nations illustrates the Department of Energy’s belief that Alaska exports will not diminish the amount of gas available for Lower 48 consumers. Alaska LNG is stranded from domestic and international markets and the planned project is extremely expensive. Alaska will need to be able to export to more than free-trade nations to be successful.
Progress is being made on the plans for the gas pipeline with a proposed plan for the 800-mile route from the North Slope to Cook Inlet. There are many spots where the gasline would cross existing transportation projects as well as natural transportation routes. Crossings include the trans-Alaska pipeline (12 times), the Dalton Highway (22 times), the Parks Highway (12 times), Alaska Railroad (four times) and the Elliott and Kenai Spur highways (one time each). Natural transportation corridors include the Nenana River (four times) and Yukon River (once), as well as nearly 450 waterbody crossings. The crossings range from small rivers and creeks to almost 30 miles across Cook Inlet.
Many discussions were held to find the most efficient way to move gas through the 800-mile pipeline. Teams also assessed the value of above ground vs. below ground pipe. Not only would the pipe cross many transportation routes, it would also be near the Denali Fault line, which produced a 7.9 magnitude earthquake in 2002. The trans-Alaska pipeline near the fault was not damaged due to its elevated support structure.
The summer of 2015 will bring more field-testing in preparation for the environmental reports in early 2016. More than 30,000 acres of land are scheduled to be mapped this summer, which will bring the total mapped to almost 200,000 acres. The project could see its final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission decision by fall 2018, with possible first gas delivery in 2024 or 2025.