Contracts awarded for studies of gas pipeline

Posted: Tuesday, April 10, 2001

ANCHORAGE - Two Anchorage companies are among six contractors awarded work on feasibility studies for a proposed pipeline for North Slope gas. The line, if it is built, would take four billion cubic feet of gas daily to Lower 48 markets.

The studies are expected to cost about $75 million and "our goal is to have this done by year-end," said Curtis Thayer, a spokesman for the gas consortium put together by BP Exploration (Alaska), Phillips Alaska and ExxonMobil Production.

The work was spread among several companies to speed it along, Thayer said, given the short weather window for work on the ground. Contracts were announced late last week.

American Reclamation Group LLC in Anchorage will examine routing options from Prudhoe Bay to the Canadian border. The company will look at the route across the Beaufort Sea as well as a line paralleling the trans-Alaska pipeline and the Alaska Highway. The work will include field surveys and identification of all landowners along the route, as well as of stream crossings, roads and rights of way.

URS Corp. of Anchorage will evaluate environmental impacts along the potential Alaska routes. About 100 employees of that corporation will work on the contract, Thayer said.

Scott Land & Lease of Calgary and Progress Land Services of Edmonton will handle land services along the Canadian section, and Wilbank Resources Corp. of Denver will work on land issues from the Canadian border to U.S. markets.

The Canadian environmental assessment work will be done by AMEC Earth & Environmental, based in Calgary. That company, which has a project office in Fairbanks, will put 80 people on the project.

Contracts for engineering services are expected to be announced this week, Thayer said.

Those will cover engineering work for the two proposed routes, the construction at Prudhoe Bay of the world's largest natural gas plant, and the construction of a plant to liquefy natural gas byproducts, such as propane or butane, for transport.

Contract winners have been instructed to maximize local hire where possible, according to Duane Johnson of AMEC Earth and Environmental.

Johnson said his company's initial role is to learn everything the various governments will require for a pipeline permit application.

Unlike the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, which has substantial above-ground segments, the gas pipeline would all be underground, Thayer said. The gas would be chilled on the North Slope so that permafrost surrounding the line wouldn't melt.

The 48-inch line would move gas at a pressure of 2,500 pounds per square inch, about five thousand times the pressure in gas lines that serve homes.

It would move as much gas in two weeks as Southcentral Alaska consumes in a year, including at the fertilizer plant and liquid natural gas facility in Nikiski, Thayer said.

Two route options are being considered. One would run south from Prudhoe Bay along the oil pipeline to Fairbanks, and then along the Alaska Highway to central Alberta, and then to North Dakota.

The other would use an offshore line across the Beaufort Sea from Prudhoe Bay to the Mackenzie River Delta, and then south along the river valley to northern Alberta.

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