TransCanada pipeline open season produces bids

Posted: Sunday, August 01, 2010

Multiple major industry players and others have submitted bids to ship Alaska's natural gas to market through his company's pipeline, said Tony Palmer of TransCanada Corp.

More importantly, those seeking to ship gas have submitted bids for "significant" volume, he said.

TransCanada is heading up the Alaska Pipeline Project, an effort in which Exxon Mobil Corp. is also participating, and for which the state of Alaska has committed to contributing up to $500 million.

The open season process in which bids were submitted concluded at the end of business Friday at TransCanada's Calgary headquarters, with Palmer saying he was "pleased" at the response.

He declined to provide specifics about the amounts bid or the volumes, beyond saying the volumes were "significant."

The announcement the TransCanada project has bidder interest comes while Gov. Sean Parnell's plans to bring Alaska's natural gas to market are being attacked by his opponents in the Republican primary.

Friday, Parnell welcomed the news that the open season had at least some measure of success.

"The open season has proved successful at attracting bids," he said, and called the amount of gas bid "a positive sign."

Parnell campaign opponent Ralph Samuels Friday continued to demand that Parnell make the bids to TransCanada public. Samuels led the legislative opposition to the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act in 2007, under which the pipeline is being developed.

"It has become clear that the Parnell Administration is unwilling to be 'open and transparent' about what AGIA has gotten Alaska until well after the August primary election," Samuels said.

Parnell said TransCanada, not the state, has the bid results. Palmer said TransCanada considers them confidential business information as it negotiates what may be multiple shipping contracts for the $40 billion project over the next several months.

The bids contain conditions, as expected, which will likely take months to negotiate. In some cases, third parties might have to be involved to resolve those conditions, Palmer said.

That could well mean involving the Alaska Legislature, if the companies hoping to ship gas want commitments on tax rates or other conditions imposed by the government.

A competing pipeline project, being developed by ConocoPhillips Co. and BP p.l.c. has its own open season under way. That project, called Denali, will conclude its open season Oct. 4.

Denali spokesman Dave McDowell said the competing project would continue regardless of what happens with the TransCanada effort.

He said Denali, too, expects to receive conditioned bids.

"We expect that any bids we do receive will be heavily conditioned to address risks that are outside our control," he said.

While Palmer wouldn't say who submitted bids, TransCanada President and CEO Russ Girling told industry analysts just prior to the close of the open season that interest from potential shippers had been "very high."

"All of the shippers on the North Slope had been engaged in conversation with us," he said.

The three biggest holders of rights to North Slope natural gas are TransCanada's partner Exxon Mobil and the two companies backing Denali.

All three companies opposed the state's AGIA process, and instead urged it to negotiate tax incentives with them to build a pipeline. After AGIA went ahead, two of them formed their own pipeline company and the third joined the state-backed effort.

Fairbanks Rep. Scott Kawasaki, who supported AGIA, called the submission of multiple bids great news for Alaska.

"There were plenty of people who said there wouldn't be any bids." Kawasaki said. "I'm excited by so much interest in Alaska gas."

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.



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