ANCHORAGE - A Canadian energy transportation company said Thursday it will seek a role in developing a natural gas pipeline in Alaska.
The announcement from Calgary-based Enbridge Inc. comes a week after Des Moines, Iowa-based MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co. walked away from a much-anticipated deal when the state refused to give it exclusive development rights.
Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski said Thursday he welcomed Enbridge's participation. He said the company is willing to work with Alaska Native corporations and other Alaska-based companies to move forward on the project.
"It looks like the pot is still boiling quite well relative to the interest in marketing Alaska's natural gas reserves," Murkowski said.
Enbridge spokesman Jim Rennie said his company's entry in the long-planned project is "totally separate" from another announcement last week by Canadian pipeline giant, TransCanada Corp., that it is prepared to assume a leadership position" in building the line from Prudhoe Bay to the Yukon border.
The state is also considering a proposal from major oil producers - BP Exploration (Alaska), ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips - which hold rights to the natural gas.
In addition, the Alaska Gasline Port Authority - which includes the Fairbanks North Star Borough and city of Valdez - wants to finance and build a municipally owned project.
"As owner and operator of more than 9,000 miles of natural gas pipeline, Enbridge is a well-qualified applicant for the Alaska Highway project," Murkowski said.
Enbridge is not proposing that it alone construct and operate a natural gas pipeline. Instead, company officials said they intend to apply to the state to become an "interested participant" in negotiating commercial agreements to develop the Alaska portion of the pipeline.
"Our perspective on a pipeline from the North Slope is that it's going to take a lot of companies working together," Rennie said.
"It's not going to any single company. It's going to be too big, the risks are too great. We believe it's going to have to be a consortium - a partnership of producers and governments and the aboriginal peoples along the way, and pipeline companies."
Enbridge president Patrick Daniel said the company is well positioned to play a key role in the project.
"Our expansive reach into North American energy markets, combined with our significant natural gas expertise and experience with both liquids and natural gas systems in the Far North, are solid foundations for a partnership to deliver Alaskan energy to continental markets."
Enbridge said it also is exploring opportunities to build the pipeline from the Alaska-Canada border along the Alaska Highway through the Yukon and on to markets in southern Canada and the Lower 48.