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JUNEAU - BP PLC and ConocoPhillips said Thursday they have picked an oil and gas industry veteran to head up their proposed natural gas pipeline project.
Bud E. Fackrell is stepping in as the first president of the joint venture known as Denali-The Alaska Gas Pipeline LLC.
He had previously served as a senior vice president of BP's North Slope operations except for the Prudhoe Bay oil field.
In April, the two oil giants announced a project to compete with one proposed by TransCanada Corp. that is currently being reviewed by the Alaska Legislature in a special session.
Some lawmakers were skeptical of the timing since TransCanada had emerged as the favorite under Gov. Sarah Palin's Alaska Gasline Inducement Act.
Some questioned whether the Denali project was legitimate or a bluff to steer lawmakers away from TransCanada.
Fackrell said his appointment - as well as 50 field workers collecting data in Tok - should illustrate the companies' commitment to build a gas line.
"This is a real project for us," Fackrell said. "We are moving forward. We have made a $600 million commitment. The Alaska market is an important piece for us."
Fackrell's assignment is the first development announced since the companies opted to pursue their own project.
Fackrell said Denali will continue to build its executive team while field work continues.
He said the goal is to have a work force of about 150 employees assembled by year's end. They will be comprised of workers from BP, ConocoPhillips and outside contractors, he said.
State lawmakers are currently considering Palin's proposal to award a state license and $500 million toward TransCanada's proposal.
Lawmakers are in Fairbanks holding hearings on Palin's recommendation. It's the first of six stops outside of Juneau during this special session.
In nearly two weeks of hearings, there have been only a few references to the Denali project.
Denali and TransCanada have both proposed construction of a pipeline from Alaska's energy rich North Slope to Alberta, Canada.
Fackrell joined BP's Alaska operations in 2006. Prior to that, he was CEO and general manager of Abu Dhabi Marine Operating Company.