OTTAWA (Dow Jones)
Enbridge Inc. (ENB) is still in talks with ConocoPhillips (COP) and BP PLC (BP) about taking part in their natural gas pipeline from Alaska, the company said Thursday, even as the state government throws its support behind a competing project.
Canada's second-biggest pipeline firm added that it wouldn't rule out participation in a broader consortium involving Alaska's major gas producers and Calgary-based rival TransCanada Corp. (TRP), which recently won the approval of Alaska's senate.
"We're still continuing discussions" with ConocoPhillips and BP, Enbridge spokeswoman Jennifer Varey said. "We've always seen ourselves participating in a larger consortium...We certainly see a role for us."
Three months ago, Enbridge Chief Executive Pat Daniel said the company started "informal" talks with ConocoPhillips and BP on their Denali Alaska Gas Pipeline, adding that a 10% to 20% stake "would be of interest to us."
The Denali proponents are pushing ahead with their proposal, even though TransCanada won a state license and financial support earlier this month for its own $26 billion pipeline. This could lead to competing open seasons next year as both projects try to drum up the necessary commercial backing from Alaska's gas producers.
However, some observers reckon the rival projects will eventually merge, as each has what the other lacks: TransCanada has the pipeline expertise, while ConocoPhillips and BP have significant gas reserves in the Arctic North Slope.
ExxonMobil Corp. (XOM), which controls the most gas in Alaska, hasn't committed to either pipeline, although it has said it wants to participate in a project that would ship gas from the Point Thomson natural gas field on Alaska's North Slope to the lower 48 states. The company said last week it wants to work with BP, Conoco, TransCanada and the Alaskan government to build a natural gas pipeline.
Enbridge would "certainly not" be redundant if this were to happen, and would still bring value to the project, Varey said, despite the involvement of TransCanada, Canada's biggest pipeline firm.
TransCanada, meanwhile, is focusing on its forthcoming open season, spokeswoman Cecily Dobson said.
"Right now, our attention is on attracting shippers in the initial open season...and we're prepared to offer potential shippers who make commitments equity stakes" on the Alaska pipeline, Dobson said.
She declined to comment on Enbridge's potential involvement, saying it was a "speculative question."
Earlier this year, in response to rumors that Russian giant OAO Gazprom wanted to team up, TransCanada Chief Executive Hal Kvisle told Dow Jones Newswires: "One thing we don't need is another pipeline company."
(Cassandra Sweet in San Francisco contributed to this report.)
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