The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

Weaver visits Japan for LNG meetings

Gov. Walker and delegation eye Asian markets for Alaska gas


Photo courtesy Governor's press office

Gov. Bill Walker, left, meeting with Tokyo Electric Power Company President Naomi Hirose.

Mayor Larry Weaver is in Japan.

The move came at the behest of REI, a US firm that is a branch of a Japanese company that in the past looked to Valdez to supply natural gas to Asia via a natural gas pipeline to Port Valdez from the North Slope.

While plans for a natural gas pipeline to Valdez have been dropped by Alaska's major lease holders on the North Slope, namely Exxon Mobil Corp., BP, ConocoPhillips, plans for a large diameter gas pipeline that will run from the North Slope to Nikiski is in the pre-development stage.

Gov. Bill Walker, who until his election last year was the city attorney of Valdez, is also in Japan and began a series of meetings Monday in hopes of expanding Alaska's market for natural gas.

"He and members of his team met with officials of a leading Japanese trade company, a governmental financing organization and two major utilities," the press office said Monday. "They also met in Tokyo with U.S. Department of Energy officials and U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy."

Walker, who is accompanied by his wife Donna, is also with the Alaska delegation that includes Department of Natural Resources Deputy Commissioner Marty Rutherford and Gas Team General Manager Audie Setters.

The press office says the delegation discussed Alaska's liquefied natural gas potential with the presidents of Itochu Corporation, a trade company; Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation, a government agency that provides financing for Japanese companies interested in natural gas exploration; Tokyo Electric Power Company, the largest in the country; and Tokyo Gas, which serves more than 11 million customers in seven cities.

Alaska's relationship with Japan dates back to 1969, when the first natural gas shipment was delivered from Nikiski.

"When Phillips Petroleum Company began shipping LNG to Japan from Nikiski 46 years ago, we provided 100 percent of Japan's liquefied natural gas supply, but today we are supplying less than 1 percent," Walker said in a prepared statement. "I'm here in Tokyo this week to change that, and to continue the mutually beneficial relationship."

Walker told the Associated press that he plans to meet with prospective LNG buyers about bringing the gas to the global market. He also plans to meet with producers, but stressed that he is not going to Japan to look for partners for a proposed major LNG project in Alaska.

"It's much more efficient to meet with them while they are there, rather than me spending weeks, if not months, traveling around to different countries and cities to meet with different companies. They will all be there," he said last week at a media briefing before leaving for Japan.

Walker said Alaska has a market advantage because it is closer to Asian markets than other U.S. points and that he believes the state is sitting on the "most proved reserves on the planet."

In June, Walker wrote a letter to backers of the current LNG line, asking the group to consider expanding current plans for a 42 inch pipe upwards to a 48-inch pipe.

Photo courtesy Governor's office

Gov. Walker meeting with Japan's Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI).

Last week, a joint House and Senate Resources Committee met in Palmer on to discuss the proposed $45 billion to $65 billion LNG Project and Walker's request to consider the larger diameter pipe.

The project manager said switching will increase costs.

The LNG project has Alaska Gasline Development Corp., ExxonMobil Alaska, BP Alaska, ConocoPhillips Alaska and TransCanada and the state of Alaska as project partners.

ExxonMobil voted earlier to put in its portion of the cost researching the larger pipe option. BP and ConnocoPhillips have another week to decide.

The joint committee criticized the delay.


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