Valdez tries to sell itself to natural gas world
City officials in Valdez felt the town hit a homerun last week after its Alaska LNG summit attracted potential buyers from Japan, Indonesia, Hawaii and industry leaders and insiders from Washington DC.
“I was kind of overwhelmed, how successful it was” Valdez mayor Dave Cobb said during a brief recap of the event during Monday night’s city council meeting.
Cobb, like many of the guest speakers at the city sponsored event, is also a member of the Alaska Gasline Port Authority.
Bill Walker, the city’s attorney and council for the Port Authority, said he was on cloud nine.
“It was just a dream come true, to have it like we did” he said, “The goal was to brand and put the word out on Alaska LNG.”
While city officials feel the summit achieved its goal of putting Valdez in the spotlight of the state’s decades old quest to develop its natural gas reserves on the North Slope, its biggest achievement may have been attracting favorable press from Anchorage TV stations.
The summit – with Valdez and natural gas in the same sentences, have for the first time appeared in a favorable light in media outlets outside Valdez.
KTUUs Dan Fiorucci spotlighted a number of high profile speakers at the summit, including a live feed appearance made by Rep. Don Young, who told attendees Alaskans must come together and demand action – soon - from the statewide elected officials if it hopes to actually build any natural gas pipeline while world markets such as Japan are still looking to sign long-term energy contacts.
Young, who has not always supported a natural gas line to tidewater, in Valdez or elsewhere in the state, is now on the bandwagon.
“I strongly suggest LNG is the way to go,” he said, recognizing Alaskans also needed cheaper fuel. “It’s needed in the state of Alaska.”
Young echoed the lament heard often in Valdez regarding talk and no real action in moving a natural gas pipeline project forward.
“So far mostly, it’s been talk,” he said. “We spend more money on stupid studies than any other state of the union.”
Young urged Alaskan communities to band together, decide on a gasline project and demand elected officials band with the communities.
“You cannot run the state divided,” Young said.
Senators Begich and Murkowski also addressed the audience through a live feed from DC last week, urging Alaskans to develop the state’s resources.
Barbara Laflin Treat, a representative from the Hawaii Gas LNG Program, outlined her state’s ambitious plans to replace much of its fuel demand with natural gas and suggested a partnership with Alaska made perfect sense - if Alaska can bring its gas to market in the foreseeable future.
Bob Gibb, an associate director with Navigant Consulting, a company that helps negotiate large, long-term energy contracts, added urgency to the matter of developing the state’s stranded North Slope gas now, before other producers sign contracts that are often good for over 20 years.
“Urgency is the name of the game here,” Gibb said.
Attendees were not just lectured by insiders. City officials provided guided tours of existing infrastructure in Valdez that would be at the ready to ensure safe export of LNG through a pipeline along the existing oil pipeline for export by ship. The vessel tracking center run by the US Coast Guard is a prime example of the existing infrastructure.
Attendees were also treated to a tour of Port Valdez and beyond courtesy of Stan Stephens tours, which showed off the existing Valdez Marine Terminal, SERVS capabilities and as a bonus, a pod of killer whales in the Valdez Narrows.
Walker said it was important to highlight the existing infrastructure in Valdez because many in industry and government are unaware of how extensive the town’s features are already built around exporting energy.
“You can make this happen or you can make this march right past you,” Gibb told the summit audience.