Considered a major step toward exporting natural gas to Asia Pacific markets, the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. (AGDC) on Friday received environmental approval for one of two proposed pipeline projects.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued the final supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) for the 733-mile-long Alaska Stand Alone Pipeline (ASAP) Project, initially designed to serve communities and potentially provide opportunities to export liquefied natural gas (LNG).

The SEIS “is the culmination of extensive engineering and environmental work conducted under the management of AGDC,” said AGDC President Keith Meyer.

As designed, ASAP would consist of a 36-inch diameter mainline and a 30-mile-long, 12-inch diameter lateral connecting the mainline to Fairbanks. It also would include a gas conditioning facility at Prudhoe Bay.

Initial design work began in 2010 at the direction of the Alaska Legislature to address potential gas shortages in the state’s major cities. However, after beginning the regulatory preparations, Alaska’s major North Slope producers proposed a second, larger diameter pipeline with an LNG export component, i.e., Alaska LNG.

AGDC joined the Alaska LNG Project in 2014 and then assumed control in 2017, giving it two pipeline options.

While Gov. Bill Walker has called the Alaska LNG project the “most promising economic opportunity” for the state, the AGDC is pursuing the ASAP regulatory process to completion “to have an assured pipeline alternative to provide gas to Alaskan communities, and to help expedite approval of the Alaska LNG Project,” it said.

In addition, the proposed pipelines share similar characteristics, as both include “buried pipelines, share a common mainline alignment for over 80% of the route, and provide gas to Alaskans.”

If it were to move forward, Alaska LNG also would include a liquefaction component.

“AGDC is advancing two North Slope gas pipeline projects on parallel paths, but only one will be built,” said Senior Vice President Frank Richards. “We have avoided duplication of work efforts and both projects have benefited from data sharing.

“The final SEIS for the ASAP Project sets the stage for AGDC to build a pipeline from the North Slope of Alaska and better positions the Alaska LNG Project for success,” he said.

AGDC plans to leverage the Army Corps’ SEIS approval “in our work with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to advance the Alaska LNG Project expeditiously as the federal agencies are now intimately familiar with the environmental conditions along the common alignment.”

With the SEIS and a forthcoming record of decision in hand, AGDC still needs three federal authorizations, which it expects to receive this summer. First, it still requires approval by the Army Corps of a wetlands mitigation plan to satisfy the requirements of the U.S. Clean Water Act.

In addition, AGDC needs a signed programmatic agreement for cultural resources between tribes, agencies, and AGDC to satisfy the requirements of the National Historic Preservation Act. The Bureau of Land Management also has to sign off on a right-of-way to allow a gas pipeline to be built on federal lands.

U.S. and Chinese officials signed a joint development agreement last November to help get estimated $43 billion Alaska LNG project off the ground. In May, Alaska LNG gained support from BP plc’s Alaska unit, which came to terms for a gas sales precedent agreement, which is expected to be finalized this year for AGDC to purchase BP Alaska’s share of 30 Tcf of gas from the Prudhoe Bay and Point Thomson units.