Alaska pipeline re-introduced to US Senate

A route map of TransCanada and ExxonMobil's proposed Alaska Pipeline Project.

A route map of TransCanada and ExxonMobil's proposed Alaska Pipeline Project.

A bill has been tabled in the United States Senate which seeks to enact the Denali National Park and Preserve Natural Gas Pipeline Act – a piece of legislation which, if passed, would authorise a right-of-way along the Parks Highway for construction of an Alaska in-state natural gas pipeline.

The Bill was tabled by Alaska’s US senators Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich. “Southcentral needs natural gas, and an in-state line provides an alternative solution to their future needs. By eliminating the uncertainty of permitting and regulatory delays, the Parks Highway route will be able to compete on a level playing field with other proposed routes,” said Ms Murkowski.

Mr Begich said “Securing a new supply of natural gas for Southcentral is an essential part of providing Alaska families with affordable and stable energy costs.”

There are currently two major pipeline projects proposed to bring gas from Alaska’s northern slopes, south through the state before crossing into Canada and onto US markets; the Denali Pipeline and the Alaska Pipeline Project. However, if one of the projects does proceed they are currently expected to reach Southcentral Alaska in, or after, 2020. The Senators have said that due to the growing need for natural gas in that portion of the state, Alaska is considering investing in a smaller pipeline to meet medium-term demand.

The proposed route is the shortest and most logical route for a pipeline through or around the roughly 16 km bottleneck of the Nenana River Canyon and Denali National Park and Preserve, following the existing highway, which passes through the Park for about 11 km. Due to a number of environmental advantages – including the ability to generate electricity for park facilities from natural gas, and the availability of reasonably priced compressed natural gas to be available to power park vehicles – eight environmental groups have expressed support for the pipeline construction along the existing highway right-of-way through Denali Park.

Alaska state regulators and financial markets will ultimately decide if this pipeline project will go forward.

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