The state of Alaska said it will employ laser profiling as part of a major aerial survey of proposed routes for potential pipelines that would carry North Slope gas supplies to in-state and/or Lower 48 markets.

The coordinator's office for the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act (AGIA) -- under which TransCanada Corp. and ExxonMobil Corp. hold the state concession for a Lower 48 pipeline (see Daily GPI, Aug. 3) -- is to provide most of the funding for the survey. Data obtained from the survey will be released to the public, said Tom Irwin, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

"A portion of the cost for this survey is being provided by the Office of the Federal Coordinator (OFC)," Irwin said. "This contribution is an example of the cooperation taking place between state and federal agencies to bring North Slope natural gas to market."

The survey is estimated to cost $1.75 million. The state will fund $1.5 million with the remaining $250,000 coming from the OFC.

The survey will make use of a technology called light detection and ranging as well as the global positioning system. It will obtain precise elevations and locations of above-ground features. A request for proposals for the survey was issued July 26 by the DNR's Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys, which will oversee the work.

"This survey will significantly improve our geotechnical understanding of the route for an Alaska gas pipeline or other existing or proposed pipelines from the North Slope to either the Canadian border or Valdez," said Mark Myers, AGIA coordinator. "Making the survey results public means that Alaskans will be better informed during the regulatory and permitting phases of the Alaska gasline and other pipeline projects."

Identifying these potential obstacles and problems in the pre-design stage allows state and federal regulators to ensure that the pipeline is routed around serious perils or is designed to prevent damage, much as the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline was specially engineered where it crosses the Denali fault in the central Alaska Range, preventing spillage during the 2002 magnitude 7.9 earthquake, DNR said.

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