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Alaska LNG project sponsors filed July 18 for federal permission to export liquefied natural gas for 30 years from a $45 billion to $65 billion development that includes a pipeline across Alaska and an LNG plant at Nikiski.

In an application to the Department of Energy, Alaska LNG, a partnership of ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and BP, asked that the export authorization’s 30-year clock begin with the date of the LNG plant’s first shipment or 12 years from the date permission is granted, whichever comes earlier.

The 212-page filing seeks permission to export up to 20 million metric tons a year of LNG, the equivalent of about 2.5 billion cubic feet a day of natural gas.

Construction of the multibillion-dollar Alaska LNG project would tap a bounty of public resources – crossing rivers, disturbing soils and vegetation at least temporarily, creating emissions that would alter air quality, encountering threatened and endangered species.

The project’s sponsors cannot use the public’s water, land and other resources without permission, and a public process finding that such uses would be acceptable, findings that likely would come with strings attached.

The sponsors know the task ahead and have been gathering the environmental data regulators would want to see. We provide a brief guide to the federal agencies handling the major authorizations Alaska LNG would need.

What is it that brings misery, numb toes and frozen pipes to Alaska residents but warms the hearts of people designing a liquefaction plant?

The state’s cold weather.

Low temperatures would make the natural gas liquefaction process and related systems more energy efficient for the Alaska LNG project. Higher efficiency and lower operating costs are an important advantage in an intensively price-competitive global market for liquefied natural gas sales.

Oil producers on the North Slope have long benefited from the same cold-weather phenomenon that makes their compressors more productive during the winter. The benefit applies throughout the LNG project, from the gas treatment plant to the pipeline compressor stations to the LNG plant.

Guide to Alaska gas projects
and glossary of gas terms

blue gas flame

Hundreds of millions of state dollars have been allocated to a variety of projects that could move North Slope natural gas to market. These include an ambitious North Slope producer-led effort that could pipe massive amounts of gas to an LNG export plant, a small-volume state-sponsored pipeline project and an even smaller-scale proposal to truck LNG to Fairbanks, Interior Alaska’s largest community.

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The East African nations of Mozambique and Tanzania are serious contenders in the global contest to sell liquefied natural gas to Asia, but like other high-stakes projects proposed in Alaska and elsewhere there are big obstacles and no guarantees.

On the upside, the region’s proven gas reserves are enormous and growing. Foreign investment is boosting exploration and development. Top leaders from the largest LNG-consuming nations are jetting across the Indian Ocean to talk resource diplomacy and investment.

Perhaps most important of all: LNG buyers are interested.

But the difficulties are numerous and daunting enough that LNG exports may be a long time coming.


Any project as large and complex as a multibillion-dollar natural gas project from Alaska's North Slope will require numerous federal, state and local permits. Agencies have been working with developers on National Environmental Policy Act and permitting efforts for an Alaska gas line project.

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