While the northern route Alaska gas will take to Alberta continues to be vigorously debated, the final connection to the Lower 48 is now starting to get some attention.
And the consortium of North Slope producers -- ExxonMobil, BP and Phillips -- is leaning towards a multi-billion system parallel to the recently-opened C$4.7 billion Alliance line from northeastern British Columbia, through Alberta and Saskatchewan to the Chicago hub.
North American Natural Gas Pipeline Group project manager John Carruthers put the topic on the table at a recent Calgary conference.
“Chicago would be the logical market for the Lower 48 states and it’s logical to follow the (1,800-mile) Alliance right-of-way,” he said. “Alliance is pretty much a straight line from Alberta to Chicago.”
Carruthers said his consortium is opening discussions with Alliance regarding pipeline use and right-of-way.
“We need to consider excess pipeline capacity today. Over time that capacity may be fully utilized. We need to look at expansion opportunities and compare them to a greenfield pipeline,” he said.
He said that a new line would be twice the size of Alliance, which is rated at 1.325 billion cubic feet per day, but reached a record 1.65 billion cubic feet per day in March, 25 percent above contracted volumes.
A spokesman for Alliance said there are no immediate expansion plans, although 600 million to 800 million cubic feet per day could be added relatively cheaply.
However, Carruthers noted that preliminary evaluations -- which have yet to determine costs -- point to a 48-inch diameter pipeline from the North Slope to Alberta, carrying 3 billion to 5 billion cubic feet per day under 2,500 pounds per square inch of pressure.