December 17, 2009 --- Vol. 15, No. 97December 2009

DNR opens travel in western coastal area

The Alaska Department of Natural Resources today opened the western coastal area of state land on the North Slope for off-road tundra travel, for vehicle with off-road travel permits. Conditions in the area have met the tundra travel criteria of at least six inches of snow and soil temperatures of minus 5 degrees C or less at a depth of 30 centimeters.

The eastern coastal area and the upper and lower Brooks Range foothills remain closed for off-road travel. Soil temperatures at all coastal monitoring stations have dropped below the tundra travel threshold, but snow cover is still too thin at one station in the eastern area. Snow depths have reached the required levels at several foothills stations, but snow is still too thin in some places. Soil temperatures in the foothills remain too high for off-road travel in some areas, especially in the upper foothills.

And DNR warned that, although snow cover in the western coastal area is good, it may be thin in some places — operators should avoid these locations or use special construction methods to protect the tundra surface, DNR said. Alaska’s Division of Mining, Land and Water stipulates the required frost and snow conditions for driving across the tundra.

Fire damages FNG Point Mackenzie plant

A fire ripped through a maintenance shop adjacent the Fairbanks Natural Gas LNG plant at Port MacKenzie, north of Anchorage, early today. The cause of the fire has yet to be determined, Dan Britton, president of Fairbanks Natural Gas, told Petroleum News. But the LNG plant, used to liquefy Cook Inlet natural gas for trucking to Fairbanks, was not impacted.

FNG is still working with the fire marshal, to determine when the Port MacKenzie plant can go back into operation. But Britton did not anticipate any interruption in gas supplies for Fairbanks gas consumers.

“We maintain in excess of five days of supply here in Fairbanks at any given time and we actually have about seven days (supply) right now, based on current inventories and weather,” Britton said. “… We’ll be working to get the plant restarted as soon as possible.”

Explosions reported at the Port MacKenzie facility during the fire incident are likely related to drums of oil located in the maintenance shop prior to dispatch to a recycling company, Britton said.

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