ENSTAR Natural Gas Co., which delivers natural gas to about 327,000 customers in Alaska, may consider importing liquefied natural gas (LNG) to deal with projected shortages in the southeastern part of the state, the president said earlier this week.

ENSTAR President Tony Izzo told a meeting of the Alaska Natural Gas Development Authority Board that importing LNG may be what is required to deal with future shortages because of declining gas output from Cook Inlet fields. He said, “where we see things going, that’s an option.”

ENSTAR, a subsidiary of Michigan-based SEMCO, relies on contracts with gas producers for its supply, and it has enough to supply all of its customers through 2009. However, Izzo said that after 2009, the company will have to find new sources for its gas. The company said there appears to be adequate supplies located in the Nenana Basin, south of Fairbanks, AK, and the North Slope, but the gas may not be brought online in time to meeting ENSTAR’s schedule.

Curtis Thayer, an ENSTAR spokesman, told the Anchorage Daily News that importing LNG from foreign sources would be a “temporary solution” until more gas is delivered to the region.

Izzo noted that a North Kenai LNG plant jointly owned by ConocoPhillips and Marathon Oil Co. is in danger of closing because an export license required for operation expires in 2009. To renew the license, the owners also are looking for new gas supplies to fuel the plant. ConocoPhillips apparently wants to continue to operate the plant, but it is “keeping their options open,” said Thayer. No formal negotiations have taken place between ENSTAR and Conoco Phillips, but Thayer said if the facility were closed, it could still b e used to store imported LNG.

“We would rather develop our own natural gas resources,” Thayer told the News. “We would rather see an in-state natural gas line from the North Slope.”

Last February, the company began a preliminary assessment of a 350-mile gas pipe from the interior to southcentral Alaska along a route that would parallel the Parks Highway and the Alaska Railroad. Izzo said the pipe could line with the proposed North Slope gas line near Fairbanks.

However, if the North Slope gas project is delayed or doesn’t happen, ENSTAR also is working with the Alaska Natural Gas Development Authority on a right-of-way for a possible pipe to Glennallen, AK from ENSTAR’s system in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. A pipeline along that route could connect with a pipeline to Valdez, AK from the North Slope, or with an Alaska Highway pipeline near Delta, AK.

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