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FERC Planning Environmental Review of Alaska LNG Project

Despite some ruffled feathers during the application process and a nearly 11-month-long wait, FERC on Tuesday said it would conduct an environmental review of a proposed project, estimated at $43 billion, to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Alaska.

In a notice of schedule, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staff plans to issue a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Alaska LNG Project in March 2019, followed by a final EIS by Dec. 9, 2019 [CP17-178]. A 90-day federal authorization decision deadline for the project has been set for March 8, 2020.

The state-owned Alaska Gasline Development Corporation (AGDC) filed an application with FERC last April for the project, which would commercialize North Slope natural gas. The Commission issued a notice of application two weeks later.

AGCD President Keith Meyer said the timeline for the draft and final versions of the EIS would help keep the project on track to enter service by 2025.

The Alaska LNG Project would have the capacity to export up to 20 million metric tons/year of LNG. The project is to include a three-train liquefaction plant in Southcentral Alaska at Nikiski; an 800-mile, 1.1 meter diameter gas pipeline; a North Slope gas treatment plant; and interconnecting facilities to connect the Prudhoe Bay gas complex to the gas treatment plant.

"Achieving clarity on the permitting timeline is another critical step forward for the project,” Meyer said, adding that AGDC was “appreciative” of FERC and the Trump administration “for their continued commitment to keeping this project on the fast track. The Commission's timeline enables AGDC to continue moving expeditiously forward with Alaska's great energy export project."

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker added that FERC's notice "is a major step forward that establishes clarity and predictability in the federal permitting process, which is critical for investors."

U.S. and Chinese officialssigned a joint development agreement (JDA) to help get the project off the ground in November. The JDA was signed by the AGDC, Walker, China's state-owned Sinopec Group, China Investment Corp. and the Bank of China. Walker called the JDA a "most promising economic opportunity" during his State of the State address two months later.

Although the AGDC said it had submitted its final responses to post-application data requests made by FERC in January, the Commission responded in February that, despite multiple requests, it was still waiting for some environmental data from the AGDC.

Last week, FERC granted Dominion Energy Cove Point LNG LP permission to begin commercial service from its export facility on Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, making it the second U.S. facility to export LNG sourced from domestically produced natural gas in the Lower 48. Cheniere Energy Inc.'s Sabine Pass LNG terminal in Cameron Parish, LA, began exporting gas in February 2016.

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