As Alaska and British Columbia compete to attract Asian interest in their LNG export projects, at least one observer believes Alaska may have the upper hand.
Charles Ebinger, senior fellow and director of the Energy Security Initiative at the Brookings Institution, said Alaskan natural gas could, by 2020, be one of the most competitive sources of U.S. LNG exports.
Ebinger co-wrote an LNG exports study for the Brookings Institution. That study highlighted recent developments in Alaska, where major oil producers settled a dispute with the Alaskan government to develop natural gas resources at Prudhoe Bay. Production is expected to travel from Alaska's North Slope to Alaska's southern coast where it will be liquefied and exported at a future large-scale terminal.
If the project scale is large enough, Alaskan exports could be more competitive than LNG exports from British Columbia, according to the study. The Brookings study projected a scenario in which 1 Bcf/d is exported from Alaska and another scenario in which 3.1 Bcf/d is exported from Alaska. The larger-scale terminal could potentially serve Japanese markets in the range of $8/MMBtu.
Sensing the showdown, officials from Alaska and British Columbia continue to hype the benefits of their respective projects.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, recently pitched the U.S. ambassadors of Japan and South Korea on the benefits of importing natural gas from Alaska's North Slope. According to a May 22 release, both Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki of Japan and Ambassador Choi Young-jin of South Korea showed interest in the potential for an Alaska natural gas pipeline and liquefied natural gas project to deliver affordable energy to Asia.
"They recognize the ample opportunities for investment that exist in Alaska," Murkowski said. "Japan and South Korea are almost completely dependent on imports to meet their energy needs, so Alaska's vast natural gas resources represent a very real energy security benefit."
Earlier in May, Murkowski also raised the issue with Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and, separately, with members of Japan's Parliament.
Meanwhile, British Columbia Premier Christy Clark recently returned from a "jobs and trade mission" to Japan, Korea and the Philippines.
"[O]ur government has been focused on promoting British Columbia's natural advantages to Asian investors," she said in a statement. "This trade mission was about building on our strategic trade relationships so we can continue building our economy's momentum."
During the trip, Clark met with KOGAS and Mitsubishi Corp, who have partnered with Shell Canada Ltd. and PetroChina Co. Ltd. to jointly develop an LNG facility near Kitimat, which is expected to handle 12 million tonnes of LNG a year.
The province and Japan Oil Gas and Metals National Corp. also signed an agreement to co-operate and share information on natural gas activities in British Columbia according to the release.
Copyright 2012 SNL Financial LC. All Rights Reserved.
(Originally published May 28, 2012, in SNL Energy Gas Utility Week.)