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Ahtna plans natural gas wells for communities

Estimated to offset fuel costs by 30 to 40 percent

Posted: November 28, 2013 - 12:13am

ANCHORAGE — Communities near Glennallen could see reduced heating bills under a natural gas drilling plan being considered by a Glennallen-based Alaska Native regional corporation.

Ahtna Inc. hopes to develop wells and has licensed 44,000 acres of state land about 15 miles west of Glennallen, Alaska Public Radio Network reported.

The company is not looking for a product to export, said Ahtna land and resource manager Joe Bovee.

“It wouldn’t be a real money maker or lucrative to any company, but for our local demands it would probably offset our fuel costs 30 to 40 percent,” Bovee said.

Previous exploration indicated reserves sufficient to provide heat and electricity locally for 50 to 100 years at least. Ahtna would only earn $100,000 to $200,000 per year, Bovee said, but the project could help keep people living in the Ahtna region.

Gas would be distributed by a small pipeline. Houses and electric generators would have to be retrofitted to use gas. A liquid natural gas plant might send fuel to Valdez or Delta Junction.

The company is refining two-dimensional seismic data gathered since the 1950s.

“And to compare, that is like looking at a black-and-white television from the 50s or 60s,” Bovee said. “Reprocessing it, it’s still 2-D seismic data. However, it will be more of a flat screen, HD-color type. So we can re-evaluate that.”

The data will point the way to a location for a production pad. The company hopes to finish exploration before Middle Earth Frontier tax credits expire in mid-2016. The Alaska Legislature passed the credits in 2012 to encourage oil and gas exploration in areas outside of the North Slope and Cook Inlet.

The credits, Bovee said, make exploration worthwhile and would be a good deal for the state.

“The cost savings at the school district, i.e. the state of Alaska, would have to be paying to operate the Glennallen school over say 10 or 20 years would save whatever you end up paying in tax credits to a company to explore for oil or natural gas in a Middle Earth Frontiers tax credit area,” Bovee said.

The company hopes to sell gas to homes by early 2017.

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