FERC Friday approved TransCanada Alaska Co. LLC's request to use the agency's National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) pre-filing review process for its Alaska pipeline project that would transport natural gas from the North Slope to the U.S.-Canadian border (see Daily GPI, April 27).
"Because an Alaska natural gas transportation project will likely require multiple field seasons to develop an application, use of the pre-filing process will ensure completion of the environment impact statement within the legislated time frame. Therefore I am granting TransCanada's request and instructing staff to begin working on your proposal," wrote J. Mark Robinson, director of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) Office of Energy Projects, in a letter order to the company.
The NEPA pre-filing process allows a sponsor to work out any problems or issues related to its project in advance of filing an application at FERC. TransCanada said it intends to file an application with the Commission in October 2012. The pre-filing process is voluntary for storage and stand-alone pipeline projects and expansions, but it is mandatory for liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal projects and associated pipeline projects (see Daily GPI, Oct. 10, 2005).
TransCanada holds the state concession under the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act (AGIA) to construct a pipeline from the North Slope to carry gas to Lower 48 markets. Pursuing a competing project are BP and ConocoPhillips, which have proposed the Denali pipeline outside the AGIA framework. The Denali partners already have secured pre-filing status at FERC (see Daily GPI, June 26, 2008).
The future of both projects is in doubt due to the shifting nature of North American gas markets. Robust production from established and emerging gas shale plays has pushed prices down to levels that make a major North Slope pipeline uneconomic. Additionally, the North American market is poised to receive additional imports of LNG as the global market for LNG has weakened and supplies are ramping up.
In the meantime, Alaska's Southcentral region is in need of new gas supplies for which the state has been considering in-state gasline projects (see Daily GPI, March 3).
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