Summer field work is under way for the effort by producers ExxonMobil Corp., BP plc and ConocoPhillips, and pipeliner TransCanada Corp. to build a liquefied natural gas liquefaction and export facility in southern Alaska.

The activities are associated with staged pre-front end engineering design for the Alaska South Central LNG (SC LNG) project.

The companies said Friday they expect to spend $80-100 million on the project by year-end, which is in addition to more than $700 million in past work by the companies, including the joint Alaska Gas Producer Pipeline Team effort in 2001-2002, the Denali Project and the Alaska Pipeline Project (including the state’s contribution through the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act).

The planned summer field work consists of studies to collect and analyze environmental and other data required to support future regulatory filings that are key to the approval of the $45-65 billion-plus project (see Daily GPI, Oct. 5, 2012). The study area will be along a potential pipeline route north of Livengood, a distance of about 400 miles. The work is to provide detailed knowledge of the route, including information on fisheries, stream hydrology, water resources, wetlands mapping and socioeconomic assessments to support potential permit applications.

“The summer field work is a key activity to support the project’s engineering, design and cost estimation work while also gathering data required for permitting the project,” said Steve Butt, senior project manager. “It is another significant step forward for the SC LNG project, further demonstrating the commitment and capabilities of the sponsor companies.”

The companies confirmed earlier this year that they had selected a project concept that includes an 800-mile, 42-inch diameter pipeline, up to eight compression stations, at least five take-off points for in-state gas delivery, a gas treatment plant located on the North Slope and a liquefaction plant in the south-central region.

“Before we can export Alaska North Slope [gas] from a terminal in the southern part of the state, we need to be able to move it from the North Slope,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) at the Energy Information Administration’s Energy Conference in Washington, DC. “That’s our biggest challenge. It’s about an 800-mile project and it’s difficult.”

She said discussions on the project are moving forward, and producers are working together.

“This will be one of the biggest…projects in the world when it comes to transporting LNG.” Murkowski said Alaska’s “real fear” is that it may “get aced out of the game here” if it doesn’t move more quickly on the pipeline and export facilities. “We see other nations moving in and signing long-term contracts [see Daily GPI, June 3].”

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