Your Average Conventional Natural Gas Pipeline Proposal

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Patrol Vehicles at Tok Cut-off on Alaska Highway
Last week, if any unfortunate web tripper found themselves snagged here in the blogging ghetto at AKCenozo, you may remember that in my Natural Gas Pipeline post I noted we had a public information request into the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR). A post where I also noted the “Door to Hell in Turkmenistan” and how during 2011 CEO of Exxon Rex W. Tillerson made nearly $35,000,000 – that’s million, I had to count the zeros too .
The truth of the matter is that I know about as much about the process of extracting and getting natural gas to market as a moose does about fish reproductive cycles – those queer boreal dwelling herbivoreic [sic] palmate and dendritic terrestrial mammals posing as tall wild cow strippers. Okay, maybe a male panda analogy would have worked better here: “Why is it so hard for pandas to get it on?
I first called the Alaska Gas Line Project Office, which did not pick up the phone throughout the entire day – I called four times and was too lazy to leave a rambling idiotic message. I then called the Alaska Department of Natural Resources information office. A cordial but slightly confused young gentleman picked up the phone. The conversation went something like:
DNR Dude: “DNR, how can I help you?”
“Well, I.’m calling to ask quite possibly a stupid question about the recently announced agreement that Gov. Parnell signed with oil companies on the proposed natural gas pipeline. Specifically, I’m curious to know about what the agreement or proposal says about how the natural gas will be extracted “
DNR Dude: “The pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez?”
“That’s the crude oil one right? I thought that the proposed deal just signed by the Governor had a natural gas pipeline running from Prodhoe Bay down to Nikiski with a separate but connected line into Canada?”
DNR Dude: “Umm, so you’re asking about how gas is put in the pipeline?”
“I guess you could put it that way.”
DNR Dude: “I’m not really an expert, but I think they drill into the ground and pump the oil out of the ground and it gets heated and pumped down the pipeline to Valdez where it is put on tankers.”
“No, no. Sorry. I think we’re both confused here. I am talking about the the recent news that Govoner Parnell signed a preliminary agreement committing $5.75 billion for a stake in a new natural gas pipeline running from Prodhoe Bay to Nikiski.”
DNR Dude: “As far as I know sir there is only one pipeline.”
[FACEDESK] “Yeah. I…well. Okay. So I just read in the news that a new, second pipeline meant specifically for natural gas is being proposed. I want to know how exactly they are extracting natural gas to put into this newly proposed natural gas pipeline.”
DNR Dude: “Oh, sorry. It’s kinda, long day you know? I can’t really answer that question but I can get you connected with the public information office and maybe someone over there can help.”
“Right, yeah, no problem, that would great.”
I was then handed over to another nice gentleman who was slightly less baffled by my silly question but couldn’t tell me either. He indicated that he’d pass the question to someone in DNR that would have the answer. I prayed for the DNR Dude.
Then, shazaam, five days later nice gentlewoman from DNR calls.

Switching Off the Dumb Bulb

The gist of her response was that the agreement currently being purposed is of the conventional sort of natural gas extraction process – i.e. pulling out the natural gas already discovered while drilling for oil in the Prudhoe Bay region. 
I inquired on weather or not there were plans on pursuing other methods of extraction for natural gas and her response made me me turn off my dumb bulb – for just a moment. Currently, she indicated, no real exploration of unconventional methods of natural gas extraction are being pursued by anyone because primarily there’s no natural gas pipeline to ship it. 
This made me realize that the domino effect wasn’t really just about commies and cooties, but also applicable to the insatiable human spirit for natural resource extraction projects. Of course the sausage factory of oil barons (Cindy B. Taylor, CEO of Oil States International does not count because its not really an oil company per se), their army of oil men and alliance of lawyers are smart forward looking folks. Of course Exxon, ConocoPhillips, BP and others have realized and pointed out that conventional natural gas extraction is just the beginning. 
Sure, a project that throws down $45 to $65 billion dollars for a butt load of conventional natural gas is lucrative, but it lays the ground work for so much more exploration, discovery and clears the way for utilizing more unconventional ways of extracting not only natural gas from shale or hydrates, but also shale oil deposits as well. Sky’s the limit baby.
So what, right? More gas and oil extraction, more jobs, more money, possibly cheaper energy prices, bigger PFDs, and more tax revenues flowing into the state for education, construction, health care – awesome. I get it. Hell, good ole Exxon CEO Double T-Rex will probably throw another couple mill in the bank for retirement for sealing the deal – good for him.
As I pointed out in my earlier post, when a politician and a group of businessmen walk into a room with money falling out of their knickers and smiles on their faces, you can be pretty damn sure they mean business. No matter how much screaming about environmental or climate effects that will undoubtedly result in some form or another from this and future projects, I do not believe this project, which has valid potential economic and social benefits, can be stopped. It’s been a long time in the making and now mountains of money are being put on the table.
The question is now, how do we push policy to be forward looking for the environment just like BP and Exxon are being forward looking for their corporations and industry? I am a bit of a peon so, I don’t really have much or any real answer, but I’ll highlight again some of my suggestions.
Unremarkable AkCenozo Recommendations:
  • Since the agreement has to be passed by Alaskan legislators, is there any way to work in a commitment to take a portion of the tax revenue dedicated to the permit fund bank and set it aside to build up capital for greener more sustainable energy projects in the future?
  • Is there anyway to ensure that funds and plans are set aside and made to ensure that if a LNG tanker blows up in or around Nikiski, or if there is a pipeline leak, or any number of other mishaps that could happen, we have the capital and know-how in dealing with such a disaster?
  • With such a large commitment by the Alaskan government, would it be possible to have legislators that sign-on add-on commitments by the State of Alaska to make their facilities and operations 45-70% more energy efficient?
  • If Sean Parnell and other right leaning folks in Alaska are committed towards investing in energy projects that benefit Alaska, why not create a business incubator program which is specifically dedicated towards financing start-up costs for sustainable energy Alaskan businesses?

If any of you Alaskan environment/political junkies out there know anything about how we can jump into the process and at the very least make potentially influential recommendations for the ultimate passage of the natural gas pipeline project please get in touch: akcenozo@gmail.com or post your suggestions in the comment section below.

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