Anchorage Gas Company Queried for Interior Work
FAIRBANKS — ENSTAR, the Anchorage natural gas giant that serves some 350,000 customers in Southcentral, might build gas distribution lines in the Fairbanks periphery under still-developing natural gas trucking plans.
The Interior Alaska Natural Gas Utility has approached the Anchorage company about creating a public-private partnership and received a favorable response, IANGU general manager Steve Haagenson said. An exchange of letters between the two entities is a positive development, but it does not mean they’ve reached any formal agreements. As Haagenson said, “They’re on our dance card but we haven’t brought anyone home yet.”
As he envisions it, the newly formed IANGU could contribute access to government grants, tax-free status and low interest loans to keep costs low for Interior ratepayers. ENSTAR would contribute its considerable expertise building natural gas pipelines. It’s the largest among a half-dozen regulated natural gas utilities in Alaska and has experience working with public utilities, including a new natural gas project in Homer. The interest from ENSTAR will help IANGU prepare for a hearing before the Regulatory Commission of Alaska in which it will have to demonstrate it is fit, willing and able to provide natural gas, he said.
Fairbanks Natural Gas, a company that supplies Cook Inlet natural gas to about 1,000 customers in the core Fairbanks area, also is interested in working with IANGU, CEO Dan Britton said. Britton opposed the formation of a public utility last year, calling it an unnecessary organization that would compete with the private sector. He said he did a presentation before the public utility and would be willing to work with it on building a distribution network.
“I can’t see how it makes sense for some other outfitter to come in that’s not already in Fairbanks without first having a discussion with us,” he said.
The work on potential natural gas distribution lines comes as the Alaska Legislature debates a subsidy to help lower energy costs in the Interior by trucking inexpensive North Slope gas down the Dalton Highway to the region. The Alaska Senate has already passed a package of $355 million in loans toward both a gas liquefaction plant and a gas distribution system in the Interior. The bill is still being discussed in the Alaska House of Representatives.
If the bill passes, IANGU anticipates engineering on a gas distribution system would take place this year with construction beginning in summer 2014 in North Pole and the Badger Road area, Haagenson said. This region is IANGU’s first priority because of its relatively dense population.