Posted: Tuesday, April 24, 2001

Unemployment falls in March

ANCHORAGE - Alaska's unemployment rate began a seasonal decline last month, slipping to 6.7 percent from 7.5 percent in February.

About 2,500 more Alaskans were employed in March, trimming the number of jobless Alaskans to 21,600, according to a report from the Alaska Department of Labor.

During the same period a year ago, the unemployment rate was 8.0 percent.

A slight decrease in unemployment during March is typical as the economy continues its seasonal upswing. Brisk construction activity also contributed to the fairly low unemployment rate, the report said.

Several areas, including Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, Sitka and Kodiak Island, are below the statewide jobless rate.

Sixteen areas had unemployment rates in the double digits, including the Kenai Peninsula Borough, the Denali Borough and the Wade-Hampton Census area in western Alaska.

Contracts awarded for gas pipeline studies

ANCHORAGE - Veco Corp. and Natchiq Inc. are involved in two different joint ventures that will work on engineering studies of routes for a proposed pipeline to take North Slope natural gas to the Lower 48, according to the big North Slope gas owners.

Veco will be involved with Fluor Corp. in two studies, one on engineering for the pipeline itself from Prudhoe Bay to central Alberta, and the other on a plant to remove natural gas liquids from the pipeline stream, the gas consortium announced last week.

"This award is a major breakthrough in the history of Alaska business," said Pete Leathard, president of Veco, in a statement. "Prudhoe Bay and the Alyeska Pipeline were built by Lower 48 companies. Today, we in Alaska are being recognized for our ability to fully participate in the development of Alaska's future."

Natchiq is involved in a joint venture with Parsons Engineering of California on designing a gas treatment plant for the North Slope to remove carbon dioxide from the gas, compress it and chill it. If built, it would be the largest such facility in the world.

Another contract goes to the AlasCan Group, based in Calgary, Alberta, for engineering and design for additional pipeline infrastructure from Alberta to Lower 48 markets. That group involves five companies, including Natchiq and Nana/Colt Engineering LLC of Anchorage.

The gas consortium put together by BP Exploration (Alaska), Phillips Alaska and ExxonMobil Production is spending $75 million on various studies for the pipeline, looking at two alternative routes.

One would run south from Prudhoe Bay along the trans-Alaska oil pipeline to Fairbanks, and then along the Alaska Highway to central Alberta.

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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