Interest revived in building a North Slope gas pipeline in 2000, when natural gas prices surprisingly spiked. Exxon Mobil Corp.'s involvement in that effort has evolved over the years:
• 2001: Exxon, BP and Phillips Petroleum form the North American Natural Gas Pipeline Group. They budget $75 million to figure out whether a pipeline can be profitable for them. They consider a northern route along the Beaufort Sea coast to Northwest Territories and then south through Canada, and a southern route that would follow the trans-Alaska oil pipeline route and the Alaska Highway into Canada. BP and Phillips eventually favor the highway route. Exxon is noncommittal.
• 2004: Federal law prohibits a pipeline along the Beaufort coast to Canada.
• 2004-2006: Exxon, BP and Conoco Phillips negotiate a huge but controversial contract with the administration of then-Gov. Frank Murkowski calling for work to begin on a pipeline project and requiring oil and gas taxes to be locked in for decades. The contract fails to get legislative approval.
• 2007: Gov. Sarah Palin pushes through the Legislature the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act, laying out terms for obtaining state incentives for a pipeline project. Exxon, BP and Conoco object to, and lobby hard against, AGIA. Exxon in particular wants tax rates locked in and it objects to the AGIA timetables, among other concerns.
When the state takes bids for a pipeline project to sanction under AGIA, neither Exxon nor BP respond, although Conoco makes an offer that doesn't meet AGIA provisions.
• 2008: TransCanada Corp. wins the state license under AGIA.
BP and Conoco form a company called Denali to pursue a rival gas pipeline project. Exxon is mum.
Gov. Palin, when asked about the absence of Exxon, says: "The sentiment shared by a lot of Alaskans is that, you know, Exxon, don't let the door hit you in the stern on the way out if you choose not to participate in progressing development of Alaska's resources." • 2009: Exxon joins the TransCanada project, helping fund the preliminary work, from initial engineering to nailing down a cost estimate of the project.