Cook Inlet Natural Gas Shortage Two Years Away
Imports needed by winter 2014, according to Enstar president
ANCHORAGE - Southcentral will be dependent upon imported natural gas two winters from now.
That was the message Monday from the president of Enstar Natural Gas.
Your heating bill will go up no matter what happens.
The U.S. Geological Survey estimates there are 19 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in Cook Inlet. Two jack-up rigs recently arrived to look for gas. Utilities withdrew gas from a new storage facility for the first time on November 9. A state agency is helping homeowners with conservation measures.
And yet, Enstar President Colleen Starring said the short-term supply situation is worrisome. "All those things are happening and they're all good and they're all moving us forward. It’s not enough. We simply can't conserve our way out of what we believe we're facing right now."
Production in the legacy fields in Cook Inlet has declined at an average rate of 22 percent. That does not mean Southcentral residents are going to freeze in the dark. But Starring said it does mean we'll need expensive imports of liquefied or compressed natural gas by the winter of 2014-2015.
"Absent any major discoveries, we are looking at shortfalls in about two years time frame, and LNG or CNG imports are a certain method that we believe could bridge the shortfall until there's a long-term solution that brings Alaska gas to market."
But even with a major discovery, utility bills would go up because of the new infrastructure necessary to bring the gas to market.
Jim Posey, general manager of Municipal Light and Power, said the only option for residents and businesses is to explore conservation measures. "And reduce their absolute peak use of gas and electricity as a way of reducing the cost to themselves. If you don't do anything in the conservation, then you will pay more."
For anyone who assumed the region had a secure supply of natural gas, it's later than you think. Enstar and other utilities, including ML&P, have formed a long-term natural gas supply group to study options for bridging the coming gap.
Starring said importing liquefied or compressed natural gas is the only guaranteed fix.