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October 2012

Vol. 17, No. 41 Week of October 07, 2012

Ship pilot: Valdez best for LNG exports

Port Valdez would be better than a Cook Inlet port for safely exporting large volumes of liquefied natural gas, or LNG.

So concludes an experienced ship captain, Jeff Pierce, who prepared a navigational risk analysis for the Alaska Gasline Port Authority. The study was presented at the Alaska LNG Summit held Sept. 13-14 in Valdez.

The port authority is a partnership of the Fairbanks North Star Borough and the city of Valdez. It has long pursued a project to pipe stranded North Slope gas to Alaska’s southern coast for export to Asian markets.

Pierce is a veteran, state-licensed ship pilot with the Southwest Alaska Pilots Association, the port authority said in a Sept. 27 press release. The association provides pilotage service to shipping in Alaska waters including Prince William Sound and Cook Inlet.

Port Valdez is on the sound.

For his analysis, Pierce interviewed 19 other marine pilots with a combined 442 years of navigational experience in both the sound and the inlet, the press release said.

He concluded that Cook Inlet poses a greater shipping risk than Port Valdez due to the inlet’s winter ice buildup and strong tides and currents. Further, Cook Inlet often needs dredging.

In contrast, Valdez is a deepwater, ice-free port that already features U.S. Coast Guard and tug escort operations to handle the large crude carriers that call on the Valdez oil terminal.

While Asia-bound ships for decades have loaded LNG at the Cook Inlet port of Nikiski, those vessels are small compared to the ships that would be needed to move huge volumes of North Slope LNG, Pierce noted.

—Wesley Loy






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